No glory as Perth’s season goes up in smoke

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A season that promised so much for Perth Glory is now in tatters after Football Federation Australia (FFA) yesterday announced that the club will not play in the A-League’s finals series.

FFA CEO David Gallop delivered the news at 1pm WST, with an official release from the association stating that Glory “has deliberately failed to disclose reportable benefits and payments to at least six players, and from the beginning of the 2014/15 season has been operating in excess of the allowable salary cap of $2.55m by in the order of $400,000”.

Consequently, irrespective of where Glory finishes on the A-League ladder, they will be moved to seventh spot at the end of Round 27, thus missing out on the finals.

The reality really hit home in the post-game press conference following the 3-0 home defeat to Sydney FC as the rarely fazed Kenny Lowe had tears in his eyes while addressing the media.

The Glory coach spoke for just over seven minutes to a group of journalists that, for the first time this season, included a representative from Channel 9.

“It’s outside of our control, obviously, the things that have gone on,” he said.

“We’ve just got to really focus on ourselves and stay true to ourselves, and stay true to the competition because we’ve got to play teams and those results affect certain things that go on in the comp as well.

“It’s not fair on others if we just roll over.”

They certainly didn’t do that against Sydney FC, and should have gone into half time with the scores level when Jamie Maclaren’s well placed finish was wrongly disallowed for offside after Alex Brosque had given the visitors the lead.

Graham Arnold’s men scored twice just after the hour mark through Bernie Ibini-Isei, with a wonderful left foot volley, and Brosque to kill the contest, and that’s when things started to go downhill off the park.

Flares were lit behind both goals, and a 13-year-old boy taken to hospital after suffering burns to his legs. Two juveniles have been charged with grevious bodily harm.

The active supporters in the south stand then made for the concourse as part of a walk out protest and clashed with police to the point where a number were evicted from the stadium.

Many returned for the final few minutes of the contest in support of the players.

“I think we’re probably hurting just as much as they [the fans] are,” said Lowe afterwards.

“I think the ultimate thing is that we all just hang in there and stick together, finish off the season in a proud manner where you have some integrity about yourself.”

His opposite number described the atmosphere as strange, and not something he was used to when in Perth.

“It was very, very quiet at times, it’s difficult for everyone,” said Arnold.

The crowd of 7246 was a season low at nib Stadium, though that number was heavily impacted by a West Coast Eagles game taking place in Subiaco at the same time.

That figure is unlikely to be improved upon next weekend when Glory take on Melbourne City in their final home game of the season; the 3pm Sunday start time clashes with the Fremantle Dockers and West Coast Eagles Western Derby in the AFL.

Club CEO Jason Brewer, the man expected to take the fall for Glory’s finals expulsion, was not welcomed by supporters as the hostilities escalated inside the stadium.

Brewer has maintained the club’s innocence throughout the FFA’s investigation, though is believed to have at one point offered his resignation to owner Tony Sage. It was refused.

There was confirmation before the game that Glory has filed a case with the Supreme Court of Western Australia for an injunction against the FFA’s decision but an outcome has been delayed until Monday.

At this point, a club that sat on top of the table for 17 consecutive weeks is out of the finals and those responsible for the mismanagement of the salary cap must be held accountable.

While Brewer is the current figurehead for the running of the club, some of the offences outlined by FFA predate his time as Glory CEO. All, however, fall into the tenure of Tony Sage as owner.

Sage, who took over the licence in 2008, is no stranger to controversy when it comes to his businesses, having had his offices raided by the Australian Federal Police for issues relating to tax payments on two separate occasions.

In 2013, it was revealed that the State Government was forced to write off almost $250,000 after Sage refused to pay a bill for taxpayer-funded public transport for home games at nib Stadium.

Then Transport Minister Troy Buswell accused Sage of owing $400,000, of which only $150,000 was returned in three instalments.

Soon after, Glory withdrew from the scheme that allowed supporters free use of public transport with their match ticket, much to the annoyance of many.

Sage also drew the ire of fans when he sacked Alistair Edwards in December 2013, less than ten months after he was appointed interim manager following Ian Ferguson’s departure.

Edwards, who had inked a three-year deal as head coach, and a number of senior players have had a falling out, which culminated in with the coach being sent on his way by Sage.

The ramifications of that decision are still being felt with one of Edwards’ assistants, club legend Gareth Naven, currently locked in a legal battle with Glory.

Naven is reportedly seeking $104,508 following his sacking in January 2014, and the matter is beyond mediation, meaning that a pre-trial is imminent.

Sage has locked horns with FFA on a number of issues before, and often has valid points, particularly around the fact that Glory get the same travel allowance as the other nine A-League clubs despite doing more than double the air miles of anyone else during the season.

While all of the head butting might not be so bad in isolation, combined they become just one thing after another for supporters to deal with, and the loss of a spot in this season’s finals is set to be the final straw for many.

At this point, faith has been well and truly lost in Sage and his administration. They have let down the club’s innocent players, fans and day-to-day employees, the people without whom Perth Glory would not exist.

Football in Western Australia below A-League level continues to expand, yet Glory’s list of disappointments grows at a not too disimilar rate.

Club legend Jamie Harnwell echoed the thoughts of the majority when he described Friday as the worst day in Glory’s history, and it will be very difficult to repair the damage that’s been done.

Kenny Lowe admitted that it was a difficult time for the playing and coaching groups but they had to get on with things.

“Whatever comes out of it we’ve got to take it on the chin, and stand up and accept that,” he said.

“But do it in a way that you’ve got a bit of class about you.”

There wasn’t much time for the players to digest the news on Friday as it was broken to them at a team meeting just half an hour before the official FFA announcement.

Lowe stated that while their mindset might be suffering now, the collective would act professionally and not let themselves down in the aftermath.

“This can be a defining moment for the club,” he said.

“Out of a lot of negatives if you’ve got certain mindset or a certain drive about yourself you can good turn good things, you can create positive things, and I think when you are down and you are like that, that’s how you judge people.

“You see true characters and I think in the next few days we’ll see some true characters in our football club, and I would expect people to rise to that.”

Lowe also paid tribute to the achievements of his players on the park and was emphatic when asked about how they would approach their remaining fixtures.

“I’m actually proud and honoured to represent those guys in there because I think they’ve been absolutely fantastic this year,” he said.

“And they will be absolutely fantastic for the next two games as well.”

What about the long term future of the club though?

While Perth Glory has a strong history from the National Soccer League (NSL) days, they are trophyless in the A-League era and now face the prospect of undoing any good work done over the last year or so.

It becomes harder and harder for supporters to see light at the end of the tunnel when there’s just one disappointment after another, and this could potentially be a very big nail in the club’s coffin.

The suggestion to rip the whole thing up and start again might appear reactionary, but maybe that’s exactly what needs to happen for a Perth-based A-League club to thrive.

At half time during last night’s game, Bloc Party’s ‘Helicopter’ rang out over the public address system, a song that contains the line “Are you hoping for a miracle?”.

Not even the most positive of Glory fans should expect one of those now.

Perth Glory starting XI: 1. Danny VUKOVIC, 5. Rostyn GRIFFITHS, 6. Dino DJULBIC, 9. Andrew KEOGH, 10. Nebojsa MARINKOVIC, 14. Chris HAROLD, 15. Jamie MACLAREN, 19. Joshua RISDON, 21. Scott JAMIESON, 23. Michael THWAITE, 27. Dragan PALJIC.

Perth Glory substitutes: 11. Richard GARCIA, 16. Sidnei SCIOLA, 18. Jack DUNCAN, 20. Daniel DE SILVA, 28. Denis KRAMAR.

Sydney FC starting XI: 20. Vedran JANJETOVIC, 2. Sebastian RYALL, 5. Matthew JURMAN, 6. Nikola PETKOVIC, 8. Milos DIMITRIJEVIC, 11. Bernie IBINI-ISEI, 13. Christopher NAUMOFF, 14. Alex BROSQUE, 21. Marc JANKO, 23. Rhyan GRANT, 26. Jacques FATY.

Sydney FC substitutes: 1. Ivan NECEVSKI, 16. Alexander GERSBACH, 18. Peter TRIANTIS, 29. George BLACKWOOD, 34. Richard STAMBOLZIEV.

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Neil Sherwin
Neil has covered the Perth Glory and the Hyundai A-League for five years and is one of Western Australia's most knowledgeable football journalists.

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