Sage still sees power in Glory

As he walks through the foyer of the Crown Metropole in Melbourne, there is a noticeable spring in the step of Tony Sage.

Sinking into the lounge, there is also a large smile on his face. The Perth Glory owner and West Australian mining magnate is in a good space. It’s a long way from the heartbreak of almost 18 months ago when Glory were stripped of points and kicked out of the finals over what Football Federation Australia said was systematic rorting of the salary cap. Everyone was on Sage’s back, from FFA to the fans to the media.

He has always had a love-hate relationship with the fans, but the calls for him to get out of football and sell the club had reached a crescendo. While he told The Weekend Australian at the time that he had to take the blame for not keeping a better eye on how the club was being run, it wasn’t enough to appease the supporters.

The salary cap issue also came at a time when Sage, who has poured his heart and soul as well as an estimated $20 million into the club, was in the middle of a tough period business-wise with the mining industry suffering a downturn. “It’s been a tough two years, football and business-wise , that’s for sure,” Sage says. “It was a bit scary, to be honest, after the salary cap issue, especially with the fans. But things are a lot better now. The club is on a far better footing in most respects now and my business situation has just about turned around. If you go around and ask the fans now, I’d say 95 per cent support me.”

On the back of a new management team led by respected administrator Peter Filopoulos and the astute coaching of Kenny Lowe, Glory got their house in order and won back a lot of respect last season in finishing fifth — just six points off the Premiers Plate — before falling at the first finals hurdle. Having made the finals in four of the past six seasons, including a controversial grand final loss to Brisbane Roar in 2012, Sage is desperate for his club to win an A-League title.

He admits it is what drives him and why there is no way he will sell the club. Sage revealed he has had offers from China over the past 18 months, but is holding off.

“I am very committed to (owning ) the club,” Sage says. “I have always said I wouldn’t consider selling until I won a title.

“There have been offers from the Chinese. I said no. I have just about survived the two worst years of my life, so I’ll keep supporting the club as much as I can and until we win an A-League championship.”

There is also the matter of trying to get something back on his massive financial investment. Sage said he was hopeful Glory could go close to breaking even by the end of next season, but said that was dependent on the clubs getting a better commercial deal with FFA. “At the moment we are getting money from the TV deal but not from the commercial rights, like the sponsorship from Hyundai. There’s no prizemoney and nothing from the gates from the finals,” he said. “The clubs have lost about $230 million between them since the A-League started (in 2005). People call the owners greedy, but how is losing that sort of money being greedy?

“If that money hadn’t been spent then where would football in Australia be now? There’d be no A-League and the Socceroos and Matildas wouldn’t be making World Cup finals.”

Sage has never been one to be afraid of butting heads with the FFA. He even does it with his CEO, Filopoulos.

“Peter and I are always butting heads,” he laughs. “But the new management structure was what was needed. I was always one to give locals a chance (in administration ). To be frank, it hasn’t worked. When I appointed (former Asian Cup head) Michael Brown to do a search for a CEO, he came up with a few names, but none from Perth,” Sage said. “He recommended Peter (a Victorian) and that has been a very good call. Peter knows the game and the business.”

Sage is delighted with where Glory are headed. The club should reach around 8000 members at some stage this season while he is close to concluding a deal with an overseas club to take control of the Glory’s junior set-up .

“Hopefully we can get to 11,000 members in the next couple of seasons,” he said. “If we can do that then we can be self-sufficient . We are that close.”

But the pinnacle remains an ALeague title. Only then will the missing piece fall into place for Tony Sage.

‘I wouldn’t consider selling until I won a title’



Copyright © 2016 The Australian