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Jun 1, 2012

FFA to ignore Palmer soccer report

Ignoring Clive Palmer might be hard but the outspoken billionaire's calls for reform have fallen on deaf ears at Football Federation Australia (FFA).

The mining magnate was at his dramatic best in Brisbane on Friday when he launched the findings of an "independent national public inquiry" on the state of Australian soccer that he had commissioned.

But it seemed no one at FFA was listening.

That's no mean feat - Palmer quoted the bible and drew parallels with his quest for change in Australian soccer with the plight of relatives who had fought in world wars.

He even appeared to offer an olive branch to FFA.

Palmer all but withdrew a threat he had made after being stripped of the Gold Coast A-League licence to sue the FFA for $20 million.

And he claimed there was an "open offer" to pump as much as $50 million into a Gold Coast A-League club if the FFA returned the licence.

However, the FFA had no interest in the findings, released by Palmer's Football Australia (FA), which included concerns over junior football costs, Australia's failed London Olympic campaign and the A-League not being run by an independent commission.

"We are aware of Clive Palmer's report into football. We have not received it," a FFA spokesperson said.

"FFA does not believe it is independent or has any standing or authority.

"Nor is it representative of the community as only a handful of people turned out to forums."

Indeed, in the inquiry's report, only 49 people gave their names to independent commissioner Gary Collis despite forums being held nationwide over a month.

However, Collis said many more spoke anonymously because they feared repercussions from FFA.

Collis even claimed a FFA employee organised secret talks with him at a cafe in a bid to share his concerns about the governing body.

"We spoke for 20 minutes when suddenly he jumped up to run out of the coffee shop because he thought someone from the FFA had just walked past - that was the kind of environment that I was working in," Collis said.

"One guy said to me 'why would you speak out? - we saw what happened to Clive Palmer'."

But FFA claimed they were already tackling the issues with the recent release of a five-year strategic plan and the Joint A-League Strategic Committee's formation.

"FFA is working with A-League clubs, member federations, fans and grassroots members and implementing its Strategic Plan 2015 which provides a focus for growing the game," the spokesperson said.

But Palmer took credit for the recent FFA changes.

"The FFA has already adopted many recommendations I had made over a long period of time while I was with Gold Coast United," he said.

"I understand the FFA is beginning a process of listening to the view of A-League club owners who invest millions of dollars into the sport and this principle should also be extended to the wider football community."

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