Blockbuster clash is on Clive
WHETHER you believe it's “in honour of FFA chairman Frank Lowy” or simply to boost crashing crowd figures, you can't knock Clive Palmer's good deed this festive season.
Christmas came early for Gold Coast United fans and players alike yesterday, with the billionaire owner announcing free entry to all supporters for the December 19 clash with the Central Coast Mariners at Skilled Park.
In a statement issued yesterday afternoon, Palmer stated that opening the entire stadium to all fans for United's final home game before Christmas was a tribute to Lowy and the Australian FIFA World Cup bid team. “I felt it was important to do something positive to highlight exactly what Frank Lowy has contributed to not only the bid, but to football as a whole,” Palmer said.
Gold Coast CEO Clive Mensink echoed Palmer's thoughts, but added that the concept was just as much a present for all football fans on the Gold Coast.
“I'd like people to know that while we're doing this in appreciation of Frank and Ben's (Buckley) efforts, we're also looking to turn the frowns upside down,” Mensink said.
“A lot of people feel let down after the (World Cup) decision but we want to help them shake it off and get back into the spirit of things.
“It's a great way for the local community to enjoy some free entertainment and I encourage everyone who is a football fan to not only come along themselves, but to tell everyone they know or bring a group of friends to enjoy the match with them.
“Not too many things are free at this time of year!”
Nice sentiments, but critics may see dismal attendance figures as an equally plausible explanation for the charitable gesture, with the club tallying record lows of 1714 and then 1658 for their last two bouts at Robina.
Palmer has been under constant pressure to boost attendance figures almost since the club's inception and was hammered by local fans and the FFA alike when he opted to cap Skilled Park crowds at 5000 in October, 2009.
However, Sunday week's blockbuster between the third-ranked hosts and their fourth-placed rivals promises to attract a swarm of closet fans and ensure the blue and gold army won't play in front of a low crowd.
“In regards to crowd numbers, things need to be put in perspective, and the weather of late has certainly played its part. It was absolutely foul on Sunday,” Mensink said.
“Every player likes to play in front of a big crowd and we've always said that when crowd numbers get up, the cap and structuring of the stadium would be revised.
“We're constantly looking for opportunities to get fans back to Skilled Park and opening the whole stadium up for free Sunday week will hopefully attract a good crowd.
“We have a terrific team who are chasing the premiership this year and they will certainly appreciate the support.”
A solid attendance would also be a big plus for United's faithful followers, ‘The Beach', who have battled hard to create a vivid atmosphere in what has been, at best, a quarter-full “stadium of boom”.
“I want to thank and acknowledge the support of those who do turn out week in, week out,” Mensink said.
“‘The Beach' have been great, very supportive through thick and thin, and the club can't ask for anything more. Even though their numbers can be small at some games, they punch well above their weight.”
To obtain tickets for the 5pm (AEDT) match visit ticketek.com.au.
Before the free clash with the Mariners, Gold Coast face Wellington Phoenix this Saturday at Skilled Park followed by an away match next Wednesday with the Newcastle Jets.