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Feb 26, 2012

FFA face another showdown with Palmer

Football Federation Australia have set the scene for another showdown with Gold Coast owner Clive Palmer, insisting the A-League club quickly back down over Saturday night's "Freedom of Speech" stunt.

The latest stoush has again drawn attention from a pivotal round of matches, in which resurgent reigning champions Brisbane Roar closed within three points of top-placed Central Coast.

Palmer was labelled a hypocrite after the Gold Coast playing strips bore the message "freedom of speech" during Saturday night's home clash with Melbourne Victory, as did signage around the ground.

It came less than a week after ex-coach Miron Bleiberg was sacked for speaking his mind over Palmer's decision to install 17-year-old debutant Mitch Cooper as captain for a match.

The FFA said the provocative display, which follows Palmer earning official ire for describing the A-League as a joke, was a breach of the club's participation agreement in the league.

That potentially gives them grounds to revoke Palmer's A-League licence at the end of the season, should they wish.

But they are not expected to take any immediate disciplinary action, although they have ordered Palmer to make it clear in the next few days that the stunt will not be repeated.

"Clearly one of the basic requisites of putting a team on the park in the A-League is they've got to have a strip that's approved by FFA," an FFA spokesman said.

"The job for Gold Coast is to very early in the week provide us with the details of the strip they'll be playing in.

"It's a simple requirement and clearly that strip can not have the slogan that was the subject of the breach notice on Saturday night."

However, he declined to say what would happen if Palmer defied that demand.

The FFA are reluctant to cancel any Gold Coast matches, as it would distort the competition in the lead-up to the finals.

The young Gold Coast outfit denied the Mariners full points on Wednesday and drew 1-1 with Melbourne Victory on Saturday night, which could prove a killer blow to the Victory's finals hopes.

If other clubs due to play Gold Coast instead are given walkovers, it would give them a huge leg-up in the finals race.

Asked about the league taking more serious action at season's end, the spokesman said: "FFA has reserved all rights in this manner."

In other matches, the second-placed Roar continued their charge with an impressive away 3-0 win over third-placed Perth Glory.

The Mariners fell 1-0 to Melbourne Heart on Sunday, giving them just four points from their past five games.

The Heart are in fifth spot, with Newcastle sixth, after Friday night's 1-0 win over Adelaide.

Sydney (seventh) are one point behind the Jets, after Saturday's loss to Wellington, with the Victory (eighth) five points adrift of the top six.

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