A-League boss Lyall Gorman is spruiking record crowd and television figures from the league’s seventh regular season but the uncertain future of Gold Coast remains a dark shadow with players anxious for answers.
Gorman saw plenty to be positive about on Monday, citing figures showing the cumulative total of 1,416,157 fans attending matches in the 2011-12 season bettered the previous best of 1,393,933 last season.
That total was achieved despite the demise of the North Queensland Fury after last season, with 30 less matches played – 135 matches across 25 weeks compared to 165 matches in season six.
The season average regular season crowd of 10,490 was bolstered by increases in Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, Central Coast, Newcastle and Wellington.
Gorman said television audiences had also soared – up 46 per cent from last season.
And he pointed to the average of 2.7 goals per game as an indication of good entertainment value.
“This has been a fantastic season with our goals per game average in line with some of the biggest leagues in the world including the EPL (2.72), La Liga (2.74) and Serie A (2.49),” said Gorman in a statement, using stats from the 2011 European season.
But the big cloud lingering as the league goes into the finals series is the future of the Gold Coast team after outspoken owner Clive Palmer was stripped of his A-League licence more than a month ago.
The A-League can ill afford to reduce to just nine teams, especially with its seven-year television rights deal set to expire in 2013.
Football Federation Australia is mulling over the merits of a local consortium, led by entrepreneur Geoffrey Schuhkraft and Gold Coast mayoral candidate Tom Tate, which is bidding to take over the licence.
But the FFA says it wants $5 million of funding guaranteed from the consortium in just two weeks.
Meanwhile Gold Coast captain Michael Thwaite and other United players are in limbo and hoping for a positive outcome.
“I’ve had interest from A-League (clubs) and in Asia,” said Thwaite after Sunday night’s final match.
“I’ve got ambitions to play for the national team but I’m a very loyal person and I’ve put a lot of time and effort into this club.
“I won’t go down without a fight.”
Thwaite spoke passionately about the club he joined as a foundation member for the 2009-10 season at the post-match press conference following the 2-1 loss to the Brisbane Roar.
“To be honest I’m very frustrated,” he said.
“Three years ago I was made a lot of promises.
“I bought a house and moved my family here. I took on a mortgage and started coaching a local under-12 team.
“I want answers. I want some people to start talking, (stop) hiding away and (start) taking responsibility for the rise and demise of Gold Coast United.
“I want to know why the club wasn’t run properly.
“Obviously we’re waiting for an answer, most likely at the end of this week, but be it positive or negative, I’m very disappointed.”