Australian soccer gives billionaire team owner Clive Palmer the boot

Australia's sporting fraternity has done what no politician has the intestinal fortitude to even contemplate — show one of the country's richest people the door.

The Football Federation Australia (FFA) on Wednesday red-carded billionaire mining tycoon Clive Palmer, owner of a team in the A-League (Australia's version of the English Cup only much — MUCH — less important in a country that vastly prefers it rugby and cricket) .

FFA chairman Frank Lowy — also a billionaire, coincidentally — announced at a press conference Wednesday afternoon that he had axed Palmer's Gold Coast United team following weeks of verbal abuse directed at the sport's peak body, and the game in general.

However, Palmer, displaying fairly his now-characteristic contrariness, broke the news via Twitter before Lowy had a chance.

"Our license is being revoked by Frank Lowy and FFA cohorts .. I will issue detailed response shortly,'' he tweeted.

Then — in what is surely shaping up to be a battle of the billionaire wits (and we interested bystanders can only hope, legal budgets) — he added: "Lowy is an institution who now belongs in an institution." 

However, until Lowy decides if there's any actionable libel in that comment, his main complaint about Palmer is his "flagrant disregard" for FFA rules.

Lowy's statement didn't go into specifics, but the breaking point seemed to be when Palmer decked out his entire team in jerseys that instead of displaying the official A-League sponsor's logo read (the Hyatt hotel chain, embroiled in a legal dispute with Palmer) "Freedom of Speech."

Palmer's objectionable behavior, Lowy said, "came on top of public comments that displayed a total lack of respect for football and the millions of Australians who love the game. Such disrespectful behavior, a flagrant disregard for the rules and a stated intent to continue breaking the rules made for an intolerable situation.

"As custodians of the game, we had to act to protect the integrity of the Hyundai A-League on behalf of the other nine clubs, players, coaches and most importantly, the fans."

That, and Lowy then described the Gold Coast team a "spectacular failure," which probably never goes down well with self-made, 300+-pound magnate types.

Palmer has wasted little time responding, vowing to take legal action against the FFA.

Down Under (neither a fan of football, nor of billionaires particularly) can only sit back and enjoy the match.

By the way, like the US, Australia refers to soccer as soccer, rather than use the predominantly European term "football." Go figure.

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