Rumours of Gold Coast United's death have been greatly exaggerated according to the club, who on Friday defended their decision to shut three grandstands at Skilled Park in the face of growing fan anger.
Rumours of Gold Coast United's death have been greatly exaggerated.
That's the message from the A-League club themselves, who on Friday defended their decision to shut three grandstands at Skilled Park in the face of growing fan anger.
When the news broke on Thursday that United's active supporter group, The Beach, would be moved to the western grandstand along with the rest of the club's supporters, many fans predicted it was the beginning of the end for the often-controversial club.
But coach Miron Bleiberg said that couldn't be further from the truth.
In contrary to ongoing reports that claim their entire squad is on one-year deals - presumably so billionaire backer Clive Palmer could shut down the club with ease - he revealed "six or seven" players were contracted for next season and beyond.
Bleiberg also made an impassioned defence of Palmer, who made the decision to change United's seating arrangements as a result of fan violence after their Boxing Day clash with Brisbane, not as a cost-cutting measure.
"He was in a very intense business meeting but he still found the time to come on Wednesday to the game in Newcastle. He flew in and flew out," the coach said, speaking on behalf of Palmer and CEO Clive Mensink who were both away at a shareholders' meeting in Coolum.
"If people doubt his passion for the club they don't need more proof than this. Would he bother if he wasn't interested?"
Palmer is known to be extremely cautious of any sort of violence and made the decision "for his own peace of mind".
Club figures also said insisted was important to protect themselves and the game from negative media coverage of off-field incidents, an issue that often angers football fans.
If there is no crowd trouble for United's next two home games - on Sunday against Melbourne Heart and on January 15 against Wellington - then The Beach will be allowed to return to the northern end.
"Clive was very disturbed after the Roar game because of the crowd trouble. When he came to get involved with football one of the things I assured him was that in Australia, it's not like in Europe," Bleiberg said.
"There is no death, there is no gangs, there is no killings, there is no violence. Now all of a sudden, he found out about this disturbance and he doesn't want his club to have anything to do with this."
"For his own peace of mind, he wants the Gold Coast supporters to prove they're here purely for football reasons and that they are not involved."
"I explained to him that it's also a matter of culture, that the supporters like to have their own bay at the home end."
"He said 'Miron, I accept what you're saying so let's do the deal as follows - if there are no disturbances in the next two home games, then I'll allow them to go back.'"
"The supporters are the essence of the club and we all know that. It's nothing against The Beach. It's Clive's stance against violence in football."
The closure of the eastern stand is unrelated. That section, which is opposite to the members' stand and usually provides broadcast cameras with a backdrop of empty seats, was opened with the financial aid of subsidies from Gold Coast's 'home game' held in Adelaide in week 6.
That money has now run out and, combined with a poor uptake of cheap tickets for that area of the ground, the decision was made by the club to close it for the remainder of the season.
However, as always, it will re-open should a greater number of fans need to be accommodated.