An assurance that Bakrie Group will retain ownership of Brisbane Roar has been met with shock and dismay by long-suffering fans.
The financially-stricken club issued a statement on Thursday night, vowing to take “proactive and immediate” steps to address ongoing problems following a hostile fan forum the previous night.
But fans said the decision by FFA to allow the Indonesian conglomerate until January to resolve all outstanding debts was a kick in the teeth to supporters.
Roar fan Dave Steuart, who attended the forum, said the loss of Luke Brattan remained a sore point with supporters and reflected the state of the club.
A key figure in the side going forward – Brattan terminated his contract with the club over unmet superannuation payments.
“Obviously it all leads to uncertainty in the club which leads to pessimistic attitudes on the terraces and in the stands,” Steuart said.
“There was a bit of hope from the fans’ side of things that Bakries would be leaving and taking their troubles with them.
“The last few months haven’t been very easy as a Brisbane fan – and no doubt the players and staff have experienced the same – so to find out they’re not moving on…was disappointing.”
There was a bit of hope Bakries would be leaving and taking their troubles with them - Dave Steuart (fan)
Club Chairman, Chris Fong, had publicly touted the imminent sale of the club for months and Steuart said when Bakrie divested itself of a large portion of its sporting empire there were high hopes Brisbane Roar would also be sold.
But representatives from the owners at the forum said the first they knew of the sale was a story in The Courier Mail.
Meanwhile fans have warned that the level of pessimism in the ranks of supporters will be reflected in memberships and the number of people through the turnstiles on match days.
One of the leaders of The Den, Caitlin Bray, said the tension at the forum was palpable.
“I think that kind of shocked the panel – to see so much tension and anger – I don’t think they were expecting that,” she said.
“But having read in the media that Bakrie were selling and we were getting new owners we were under the impression that was happening.
“So it was a huge surprise for them to come out and say, well no Bakrie intends to hold onto the club for the foreseeable future."
Bray added: “The season starts (in just over a week) and now they’re saying the owners have got until January ’16 to get all the payments and debts up to date. That’s another three to four months until we see a full resolution – it’s really disappointing.”
The owner is fully committed to building a new Brisbane Roar - Bakrie Group
The fan forum went for more than two hours with two representatives of the club's owners, along with A-League boss Damien de Bohun and Fox Sports analyst and former Socceroo Mark Bosnich attending.
In a club statement, Bakrie representative Demis Djamaoeddin praised Roar members for their “passion” and the “frank and honest opinions” aired on the night.
Roar have scheduled another forum – this time to focus on the football operations of the club – for next Tuesday which will be hosted by coach John Aloisi just days out from the season kick off.
"We took many messages from the forum and myself and Rahim give the members a 100 per cent commitment that a full report will be given directly to the chairman of the Bakrie Group, Mr Nirwan Bakrie," Djamaoeddin said.
"The owner is fully committed to building a new Brisbane Roar. We are not selling the club. We are going to find out what the problems are that led to the events of the last six months and fix them.
"The beginning of the new Roar has now started and with the support of the passionate fans we saw at the forum, we (the owners) can do better."
I think there will be some pretty disappointing crowds this year in Brisbane - James Price (fan)
The belated olive branch is unlikely to settle the angst in supporter ranks.
Den member, James Price said: “The ball’s in their court. They know that we’re angry, we had our vent. If they want to improve their relationship with us they've got to do the things that prove to us they’re serious about running this football club."
He added: "I think the members are speaking with their feet … I think there will be some pretty disappointing crowds this year in Brisbane.
“I’m in the camp that hasn’t bought a membership – I’ll just buy game tickets game by game.”
Price said he wasn’t swayed by the talk at the forum of a fresh start: “We needed to get our feelings across that we are angry and this is more serious than a general chit-chat.
“They were trying to sell this message of a new Brisbane Roar again- but it’s the same old thing. We’ve changed names, we’ve changed jerseys – we seem to be a new club every two years – how about we just get the one we’ve got running right.”
Steuart, who has attended Roar games since day one, said there were “fans wondering whether we’re going to have a team on the park.
“I’ve had a lot of people ask me whether we’re actually going to have a club or whether it will be liquidated.
“The FFA would take over before that happened – Brisbane’s too big a market for them to lose – but the suggestion that the club is financially in trouble is disturbing.”
I didn’t hear anything about moving forward from 2016 - Caitlin Bray (fan)
Bray said more concerning was the lack of any clear direction after the January debt deadline.
“They didn’t convince me there was a clear plan after January 2016,” she said.
“All the talk was about right now and January ’16 and having everything paid off – players and staff – but I didn’t hear anything about moving forward from 2016.
“I was very hopeful that going forward the club will be more stable and financially secure but they didn’t sell that to me on the night.”
But Bray remained hopeful of a strong season for the team, willing the players to rise above the storm: "I think other teams will underestimate us because of all the stuff going on behind closed doors."
In its post-forum statement Roar said it was “committed to rebuilding the organisation into a better and stronger club”.
And that processes will be put in place ASAP to ensure greater governance in relation to the running of the club.
Other points included:
• The FFA will introduce clear rules and regulations to ensure the situation of the last few months does not reoccur.
• The club is in the final year of its contract with Suncorp Stadium. Negotiations will commence in coming months.
• The club has done more community engagement since July 30 than all of last year combined and will continue to do even more in the coming months.