Friday, October 06, 2006


The Bugno Era, Part 2

Although there has been constant debate as to the real extent of Sydney FC’s losses last season, there’s little doubt that the balance sheet looked worse than Walter Bugno had initially expected.

The contract offered to Pierre Littbarski, whose managerial resume was not nearly as impressive as it may have appeared at first glance, was far too generous. Even most of Bugno’s supporters would agree that the “Littbarski package” was a misjudgement.

Littbarski strained the wage bill, and alienated the fans with his insipid tactics. Few tears were shed when he left rather than accept a humiliating pay cut. Bugno backed Littbarski to the hilt throughout, and reacted surprisingly angrily when a small number of fans questioned the German’s suitability for the job mid-season.

And there we come to an aspect of Bugno’s chairmanship that occasionally disappointed: his sensitivity to (often oblique) criticism.

He aimed to be loved by the fans, and to a large extent he achieved that objective. His presence on the unofficial website, on which he patiently and fully responded to fans’ concerns on a regular basis, bespoke considerable goodwill and commitment. But there were times when he over-reacted, either in public statements or on SFCU, to fairly mild criticism.

The majority of the fans, even those occasionally voicing doubts, did like him (I count myself among the above), but Bugno appeared pained when any chinks in the armour of affection appeared.

But on to other matters.

Dwight Yorke was, of course, the other major personal financial drain on the club (the exorbitant Aussie Stadium rental was, and is, another sticky issue). On the pitch, he was, arguably, not quite worth the money. But the publicity he gained the club and the league were truly priceless, and Bugno, in my opinion, deserves to be congratulated for being the first A-League chairman to take a risk on a high-profile foreign star.

Would Adelaide United have had the gumption to begin their ultimately successful pursuit of Romario, had the bar not been set by the acquisition of Yorke?

The consensus seems to be that under the stewardship of Capon – a Lowy proxy in the opinion of many – the club’s brand-building ambition will be sacrificed on the altar of the bottom line.

Capon himself is apparently a long-term football aficionado, but it’s hard to see the fans taking to him as they did to Walter Bugno.

But, says this Sydney FC fan, let’s give him a chance.

It might be wrong but it seems the more they try to save money in the short/medium term the more they will lose in the long term. It would not surprise me to see Sydney FC playing out of Cromer Park in a few years at the rate they have been going since last years resounding success.

The drastic changes that have occurred in the club since the end of the last season just exude poor management. Surely these budget losses should have been expected and planned for. If business plans will change from year to year then it can only go awry.

We wanted Lowy in because he was a successful businessman and should be able to turn the FFA and his other footballing interests into success. Perhaps he is not as adroit as we once thought. I have a feeling that football has made a pact with the devil. One that is more concerned with the year to year bottom line than making a sustainable success.

What happens next year when we look for a coach cheaper than Butcher and a marquee cheaper than Carbone?
Any idea how much the management of the clubs besides Sydney are paid? Remember Littbarski's point about Parker being paid more than any of the players besides Dwight Yorke? I'd like to know if that sort of pay level for an A-League club can be justified.

Anyway, by informed accounts, even with Sydney's money haemorrhage last season (and finances are much better this season, for lots of reasons) investors are stilling queuing up to put their money in. And they don't have a problem with the way the club's being run.

I've had a nasty little theory kicking around my head for a while, since the first attempted outing of Walter: Lowy desperately wants to be club chairman, but he can't while still heading the FFA. So, he's keeping his boot on SydneyFC's neck so it will still be nice and cheap for him to take over outright when he's allowed. Not that he wouldn't be able to afford it any price, but where's the fun in shelling out a fortune, when you can be a bastard and drive down the price? Most of us have done it in one way or another.
There is one other legacy from Bugno: much of the squad.

Let's just take a deep breath...
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