I got an email this morning from the club, confirming what we all knew was coming:
Dear Friend (that's me!),
As a valued friend of the Adelaide United Football Club, I wish to inform you of an important announcement that will shortly be made public. Club owners, Bianco Trade Supplies, today handed back its Hyundai A-League Licence and therefore ownership of AUFC, to the Football Federation Australia.
It is business as usual for the club and notwithstanding the transfer back to the FFA of the club’s licence, Adelaide United organisationally and people wise, is healthy and stable; and remains a strong, vital member of the A-League competition. Preparation for the 2009/2010 HAL season will carry on as usual, including day to day administration, football and financial operations.
The financial and personal contributions made by owner Nick Bianco and former chairman, Dario Fontanarosa are truly significant. They leave a legacy that will survive for years to come, in creating an intrinsically Adelaide entity that has set the benchmark in our still evolving national competition.
Full details will be announced tomorrow.
Chief Executive Officer, Adelaide United Football Club
So, it's official. Adelaide United's ownership is now, along with the newly-renamed Brisbane Roar, in the hands of the FFA. Which is not necessarily a bad thing: at various stages the governing body has aided or (in the case of Perth Glory) taken full ownership of other A-League clubs, with positive results.
The franchise system, which gives the FFA far greater centralised control than a system in which individual clubs are masters of their own destinies (as per the 'traditional' European leagues), can be a bone of contention. Some are uneasy with the notion of a big brother governing body being directly involved in the way clubs are run and setting all the rules.
This has been a source of frustration in the past for Adelaide fans, with the FFA carving up the club's winnings from its recent Asian Champions League campaign and distributing the loot between all eight clubs and the league itself. The only club not to actually profit from Adelaide United's ACL success, ironically, was Adelaide itself.
Some people might view the franchise system as socialistic. Which, in a way, I suppose it kind of is - the FFA is a powerful central administration which redistributes the wealth, ensuring that each of its consistuent clubs remains on a relatively equal footing, for the supposed betterment of the league as a whole. The downside of this is that the ambitions of individual clubs are somewhat hamstrung by the FFA's requirements, most obviously the limited salary cap. Clubs are prevented from growing and flourishing organically, as they might in a less regulated system.
The upside, as we are seeing now, is that when a club (or, in Adelaide's case, its owner) runs into financial difficulty, the FFA has the power and resources to jump in and steady the ship. So long as the governing body itself is financially sound, clubs' survival is more or less guaranteed. The abortive New Zealand Knights aside, I can't see the FFA ever actually cutting the cord on any of its clubs unless things really go pear-shaped.
Bianco wanted out; transferring ownership to the FFA gave him the ability to get out without fundamentally damaging the club. Now the club has time to find the right sort of investors. I don't see this as a bad thing for United at all. Let's line up a cashed-up sheik or Russian oligarch and really start cooking with gas.