Could the Mariners’ demise open door to revive Canberra A-League hope?


Canberra’s A-League bid is still working to secure a licence in the competition after missing out on two expansion spots at the end of last year.

One avenue to the competition could if the FFA decides the Mariners cannot continue. The FFA still needs 10 teams to satisfy the existing broadcast deal and Canberra was considered a “ready to go bid”.

The FFA will host a fan forum in Canberra in May and spots to the function have already been snapped up, with official space exhausted according to the registration website.

Canberra’s other avenue to the A-League could be via a second-division competition to create a promotion and relegation system, backed by Archie Fraser.


Fraser. a former head of the A-League, said the hapless performance of the Mariners was a direct product of a closed league.

Asked if the Mariners inept performance was the best argument in favour of creating a second division, Fraser said: “Yes, you could say that, as people were last night.

“But what it also really shows up are the negative effects of having a closed league where there is no punishment for failure.

“We should be asking the question why there are very few closed leagues anywhere else in the football world and whether, having had a 15-year experiment with this kind of set up, it’s delivering the right outcomes.”


Saturday night’s loss was not the first horror show staged in Gosford by former A-League champions Mariners, who are a pale imitation of the Graham Arnold-coached team that won the title and was a regular championship challenger in the early years of the A-League.

And the decision to sack coach Mike Mulvey – at 1am on Sunday morning – was something that hardly came as a surprise. Under English owner Mike Charlesworth, the Mariners have had numerous coaches – and no success – as they try to operate on a shoestring budget to save money.

Fraser, who was also chief executive of AFL club St Kilda earlier in his career, says the lack of pressure on clubs in the A-League, protected by long-term franchise agreements, is bad for players, spectators, broadcasters, the media and the game itself.

“The big clubs have separated away at the top of the league and we now get so many games in the past few seasons that mean nothing,” Fraser said.

“How can that be good for anyone, how will people be interested in that?

“Promotion and relegation would change all that. It would provide incentive for aspirational clubs who want to invest and develop their supporter base, and it would provide a competitive incentive for clubs in the A-League to invest in better coaching, better players and develop a more competitive edge.

“Games would mean something at both ends of the table and viewers, fans and media would all have engagement through the whole season for most games, unlike now.

“Promotion and relegation won’t come in straight away. We know that. They have to build up the A-League and get that right first. But we believe there is enough interest and potential investors who aspire to back clubs who will be competitive once the system is introduced.”

Chris Dutton is the sports editor at The Canberra Times.

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