Question: what do you do with the successful Sydney FC soccer club
after it has just won the first ever A-League soccer title, and your name
is Lowy and you’re the patriarch of the code in
Australia?

Do you
say, great job, let’s get going to win the next title? Or do you say
nice job, but we can do better and here’s a little something for your
trouble? Or do
you have a clean out and undermine everything you have done?

If you picked the latter you’d be
on the mark and obviously have a good understanding of the ability of Australian soccer ,
and some of the people involved in it, to shoot themselves in the foot.

It now seems that Walter Bungo, Sydney FC’s chairman, is about to be
turfed. He’s about to take up a new job at Tabcorp, the Melbourne-based
gaming giant, so the spin will be that he is leaving because he has
been unable to spend enough time with the club. But the
reality seems to be that he wants a continuation of the situation from the first
season, with a high profile international coach, like Pierre Littbarski, and a high profile international star, like
Dwight Yorke.

Within
days of Sydney winning the first title Yorke was saying publicly that he couldn’t understand why
Sydney didn’t
want him next season, and a spokesman for the coach was talking about him
returning home for a rest before making his mind up about another
season.

Now, the
reason for this is becoming apparent – David Lowy, son of Frank, who owns 25% of the club and is
reported to be backing the appointment of a new chairman. According to the Daily Telegraph‘s soccer writer, John
Taylor, the new man is Paul Lederer, chief executive
of Primo Smallgoods and a nephew of the late Andrew
Lederer who was a close friend of Frank
Lowy.

He’s
denied being approached but says the family firm is interested in investing in the
club. Andrew
Lederer ran Sydney City Club and Frank Lowy was
chairman of The Hakoah Club which financed Sydney City. Littbarski isn’t happy with the new
deal offered to him, Yorke is unhappy that Sydney want to get rid of him.

Under Walter Bungo Sydney understood you needed a big bang to make the city’s
sports fans take notice, so they bought in Littbarski,
a former top German player and Yorke, a high profile
Premier League star. That
cost more money than originally thought. Sydney operated at a loss, as budgeted, and
will do this year, as forecast.

But
now, for some reason, the Lowys want to cut those
losses. Out goes vision, in comes cheese paring. So who
is going to attract the fans next year? David or Frank Lowy
playing centre forward, or their mouthpiece John O’Neill playing
fullback?

The most obvious way to trim these losses, and assert control of the
club over shareholders and fans, is to get rid of the high-priced
foreigners, including Yorke, who paid for his time here with a man of
the match performance in the final, including setting up the winning
goal.

Only in
Australian soccer.

Peter Fray

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