Wanderers got it wrong

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“You can have a certain arrogance, and I think that’s fine, but what you should never lose is the respect for the others.”

The words of legendary tennis star Steffi Graf.

It is fair to say that fans, officials and the owners of the Western Sydney Wanderers A-League team deserve to have some arrogance about them.

In their first year, they amazed the sporting world by winning the Premier’s Plate, and attracting huge crowds and membership numbers.

It’s an overnight sporting success story that all of us here in western Sydney got caught up in.

But I honestly can’t believe the rudeness, arrogance and high-and-mighty attitude that the football community has thrown at the interest expressed by the Penrith Panthers to purchase the Wanderers.

A bit of history here first up.

The Wanderers are owned by Football Federation Australia (FFA), who administer the A-League competition.

The FFA is not in the business of owning teams in the long-term, hence wants to sell the Wanderers sooner rather than later.

They’ve sought expressions of interest from keen buyers, and when Panthers put their hand up, the door was firmly shut in the face of the highly respected sports and corporate administrator, Warren Wilson (currently the Panthers Group CEO).

FFA boss David Gallop declared: “Why would we contemplate selling the Wanderers to a club from another code.”

I’ll tell you why, David.

Because the wider Panthers vision under the management of Warren Wilson, Phil Gould and the current Board is to ensure the Group is profitable and makes wise investments.

As they stand, the Wanderers are a wise investment.

Anyone who thinks Panthers would shut the club down, re-name them or force them to play out of Penrith Stadium instead of Parramatta Stadium is fooling themselves and to be honest, terms like that could have easily been built into the contract of sale by the FFA.

The Panthers have competed in top flight rugby league since 1967. It’s been a roller coaster ride, but that comes with history (something the Wanderers don’t have at the moment).

To me, any organisation that has been participating in professional, top flight sport in western Sydney for almost 50 years should be at least shown the courtesy of being allowed to enter the negotiation process.

They should have been listened to, not had the door shut in their face by Mr Gallop, who ironically, was in charge of rugby league not that long ago.

Warren Wilson is right when he says the Panthers may have been the highest bidder for the club.

The Wanderers will never know.

Fairfax columnist Craig Foster wrote on Sunday: “Penrith stood to gain more from acquiring the fast-growing Wanderers than the other way round, since the Wanderers don’t need members.”

Right… so should Panthers bring another 6,000 members or so to the table – as part of a smart marketing initiative to try and boost both clubs – the Wanderers don’t want them?

The Wanderers story is based on one season. A mighty successful season western Sydney should be proud of.

But when results slip, and the seasons aren’t so great (which will happen – that’s sport), you need strong leadership to take you forward.

It seems the Wanderers would much prefer overseas ownership – potentially from an EPL giant like Manchester City, which has been rumoured this week – than being owned by an organisation in the heart of the area in which they play.

If that’s how they want to play it, so be it, but why do I get the feeling this whole situation will involve a hell of a lot of regret in the future?

By the way, Manchester City has completely denied interest in the Wanderers.

Since the A-League started a decade ago, three clubs have folded and disappeared into the abyss, while the Jets and Mariners have faced financial issues that threatened the future of both clubs.

The competition is hardly stable, even with the success of the Wanderers.

Maybe, just maybe, those faces down the road with the open cheque book won’t look so unfriendly in the future.

One should never look a gift horse in the mouth, they say.

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