A-League football club Perth Glory has been put into receivership, ending the rollercoaster reign of businessman Tony Sage.
Formed in 1996, since 2008 it has been the pride and joy of West Australian mining magnate Tony Sage. Under his ownership the women’s team won the premiership in 2014 and the men’s team claimed top prize in 2019.
But the pandemic prevented the team being able to play before crowds at home games for most of two years, plus an upgrade of HBF Park – in preparation for the Women’s World Cup that began this month – forced them to play most home games of 2022 at Macedonia Park, which damaged crowds and revenues.
Perth Glory finished ninth on the ladder last season, followed soon after by a major exodus of players.
Sage estimates he has invested around $50 million into Glory throughout his time, including in the region of $14 million in losses over the past three years. The escalating costs have forced him to consider selling up.
He had been hoping and planning for $3-4 million in compensation from the WA State Government, but the amount received wasn’t enough. The Australian Professional League (APL) was approached for a loan to cover wages for players and staff.
Having sold a house and apartment to keep the club operating, anticipating the compensation, he now says he has “run out of funds”.
The club was looking for investors earlier this year, and APL chief executive Danny Townsend went to Perth to assist with a sale process, as Sage hoped to sever financial ties.
In April Sage said he previously had a potential buyer willing to take a 40 per cent stake, but the new owner wanted to change the name from Perth Glory and the colours away from a majority purple, both of which he declined, as “not negotiable”.
Last month the team’s head coach, Ruben Zadkovich, resigned having been in the role only one full season.
This month the Glory was unable to pay players and staff on time, for the first time in 18 years, but it’s reported they have now been paid.
On Saturday the APL announced management had been handed to advisory firm KordaMentha, with the company’s Andrew Knight issuing a statement saying a sale process would “commence immediately”.
In a twist of fate, the announcement coincided with Perth hosting Denmark vs China, in its first match of the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup.
Sage ceased his control of the club immediately. In a statement he refers to the Glory as his “fourth child” and laments owning it has taken an emotional and financial toll. He says his decision to relinquish control was made in the best interests of the club.
“The culmination of these events and the damage they caused has made it all but impossible for us to continue financing the club and led directly to the position we find ourselves in today.”
The APL has stipulated that Glory isn’t bankrupt, but KordaMentha will control operations until the licence can be transferred to new owners, which it expects to happen within the next 10 weeks.
Under the current league structure, continuity of clubs is guaranteed by the APL, and after five years of issues Townsend says he is pleased they are soon to close off this “period of uncertainty” for players, staff and fans.
“Here we have a process that allows for the club’s operations to continue ‘business as usual’, whilst the technical adjustments are made to the club’s ownership structure.”
Sale of Sage’s stake will first be used to repay loans and outstanding expenses, with the balance going to the outgoing owner.