Will a new managing director bring Brisbane Roar a change of fortunes?
Not for the first time, The Bakrie Group’s ownership of Brisbane Roar raises more questions than answers18 October 2017 | Mike Tuckerman
What does Rahim Soekasah know about football in Brisbane that Mark Kingsman doesn’t? That’s the question Brisbane Roar fans should be asking after the club terminated Kingsman’s employment just two games into the 2017-18 A-League season.
Soekasah is Brisbane Roar’s chairman and a spokesman of sorts for the club’s Indonesian owners, The Bakrie Group. Based on his limited interaction with fans, Soekasah is as unlikely a figurehead as it gets.
As strange as Soekasah's emergence is, even stranger still is the manner of Kingsman’s departure. He was axed after an innocuous report appeared in Brisbane newspaper The Courier-Mail, in which Kingsman told journalist Marco Monteverde that a difficult timeslot and low-profile opponent were behind the disappointing attendance at Brisbane Roar’s first home game of the season.
As far as contentious comments go, it barely raised a ripple among Brisbane’s football community. But it piqued the interest of Soekasah, who reportedly told Kingsman he had publicly criticised the Bakrie Group. It was a bold statement to make, and one not necessarily supported by any readily available evidence.
There are, perhaps, some cultural issues at play here. As a forthright and occasionally bellicose managing director, Kingsman was not everyone’s cup of tea. But in claiming that Kingsman was not “fully transparent” about the club’s finances, Soekasah – who hails from a nation where saving face is an important part of business culture – has inadvertently held up a mirror to a problem that has plagued the Bakries’ now six-year ownership of the Roar; namely a total lack of transparency.
If Kingsman was guilty of anything, perhaps it was asking too many direct questions about cash flows. He’s already told reporters he had to personally guarantee some $300,000 worth of wages, with the Bakries’ notorious for failing to process payments on time. Kingsman says he’s still owed money by the club, and may take legal action to get it.
The Bakrie Group has been quick to move on, appointing former chief executive David Pourre as the club's new managing director less than 48 hours after Kingsman's dismissal. Meanwhile, a long-dormant Chris Fong Twitter account has produced a flurry of recent tweets - including one stating that the allegations the club owes money to creditors is “fake news” - although it has since been revealed that it is, in fact, a fake account.
It’s entirely possible that Soekasah, Fong and co. were unaware of Kingsman’s standing among Roar fans. His penchant for speaking bluntly may have put him offside with some, but there was a feeling that Kingsman was capable of getting things done. Indeed, after years of fractious relations with supporters, the relationship between the club and its fanbase is the best it has been in years.
Or at least, it was. The Roar Supporters’ Federation, conceived during Kingsman’s reign, has put a list of questions to the club’s owners. No doubt fans await the responses with bated breath. And the club itself will soon move into a new state-of-the-art training base south of the city at Logan, which will finally mean the peripatetic Roar have a home to call their own, instead of renting antiquated facilities at Ballymore from the Queensland Rugby Union.
The problem is that by the time the Roar run out at their new facilities, they may have few fans left. The Bakrie Group has already burned plenty of bridges in the city. And with former National Soccer League club Brisbane Strikers and local rivals Brisbane City having announced plans to bid for an expansion place in the A-League, the Roar may soon have more to worry about than just what their former managing director is saying.
It’s a conundrum largely of the Roar’s own making. And for all the capable employees at the club – and there are more than a few – The Bakrie Group may hope an old terrace chant doesn’t start doing the rounds at Suncorp Stadium. “You don’t know what you’re doing” is often directed at referees.
In the case of Brisbane Roar, it may soon be aimed squarely at the club’s hapless owners.
Note: This was updated slightly after publication to reflect the fact that the Chris Fong Twitter account is a parody account. Thanks to Vince Rugari for letting us know.
brisbane roar, bakrie group, mark kingsman