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Apr 5, 2012

A-League's Gold Coast fold, players upset

Australian football's players' association says an A-League club must never be allowed to fail again after Gold Coast United became the third team on the competition's scrap heap.

As had been widely predicted, Football Federation Australia (FFA) on Thursday officially confirmed the club would not continue, just a day after announcing it would bankroll a new western Sydney franchise from next season.

While blaming a lack of public and corporate support for a team in the region, FFA squarely laid the finger of blame at former owner Clive Palmer, saying the team under his control had failed to engage with the community and build a "football culture" around the club.

Gold Coast United became the third club to fail in seven years of the league, behind North Queensland Fury and the New Zealand Knights.

And Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) chief executive Brendan Schwab said it had to be the last time players, staff and fans suffered the consequences of a failed franchise.

"Never again can an A-League team be allowed to fail," Schwab said.

"The impact of the loss of an A-League team on both the players and the fans is devastating.

"Everyone involved in the game - especially the governing body - must now make a steadfast commitment to ensuring the survival of all A-League teams."

The PFA claims despite the short history of the A-League, more than 80 players remain at risk of losing financial entitlements totalling around $2.75 million.

It said the collapse of the three clubs had resulted in lost player entitlements of more than $1.7 million.

Last-placed United played their final four games under FFA's administration after Palmer was stripped of his licence following a vocal campaign against the governing body.

"Whilst we were able to reach agreement with FFA for all current player contracts to be honoured, the impact of this decision on the players will still be great - emotionally, personally and professionally," Schwab said.

A business consortium had been bidding to save Gold Coast, with local businessman and mayoral candidate Tom Tate saying it had felt strung along by FFA after being overlooked for western Sydney as the 10th team for next season.

FFA said on Thursday its decision came down to a lack of public and corporate support for a team on the Gold Coast and the fact "a viable business plan and adequate capital investment have not materialised" since Palmer's licence was stripped.

It also hit out at the Palmer-run club's "lack of community engagement and its inability to build a football culture around the club".

"FFA is bitterly disappointed that Gold Coast United Pty Ltd failed to develop a market for football on the Gold Coast over the past three seasons," FFA chief executive Ben Buckley said in a statement.

A-League chief Lyall Gorman said it was a shame how things had turned out with the club but did not rule out a team from the city re-entering the competition in the future.

"There's learning on both sides of the equation here and there's the opportunity in the future for Gold Coast to represent itself in a strong, viable form, to be a future part of the A-League," Gorman said.

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