Where to now for football and the Gold Coast?
Gold Coast United FC owner Clive Palmer watching his United A-league team's first training session. AAP Image/Tony Phillips
With a decision on Gold Coast United’s future likely in the coming weeks, the biggest question for Football Federation Australia is how to ensure a region is not lost to the game if the club no longer exists.
The demise of a football club is never likely to endear fans to the sport.
Having dedicated their time to support Gold Coast United through an up and down three seasons, fans are likely to feel some bitterness towards the sport they have invested much in if the worst case scenario happens.
Whilst there is little that will soften the blow of the club’s demise for fans, it is important that everything possible is done to ensure that the club’s failure does not result in the death of football in the region.
The FFA holds the key to making sure this does not happen.
If the club does fold, it is vital that elite football has a presence on the Gold Coast. The best way of ensuring this, short of saving the club, is by maintaining the club’s participation in the National Youth League.
This would ensure that the region’s best young player’s still have a pathway right up until the A-League to progress to.
But perhaps more importantly it would be an investment by the FFA in the region and a visual presence in the local sporting market. With the governing body keen for the A-League to forge greater links with grassroots football, this would allow Gold Coast clubs to be tied to the next best thing.
The issue of cost would be an obvious hurdle, but with Football Queensland having previously indicated a willingness to entirely fund a North Queensland NYL team they may be keen to do the same on the Gold Coast.
The preservation of the NYL team may also pave the way for a future A-League franchise as it could act as a testing ground. It could also aid in expansion elsewhere as there would be more players involved in elite youth development, improving the standard of players available to clubs.
There is also the need to ensure that top level football is taken to the Gold Coast if the club no longer exists, be it in the shape of Socceroos matches or other A-League games.
Since the death of the Fury, North Queensland has seen no top level football and it would be surprising if fans did not feel as if they have been locked out of the game.
This cannot happen again as the competition will not fulfil its potential if any more fans feel let down and unwanted.
Gold Coast’s captain Michael Thwaite has spoken of the need to find out why the club has failed. The need for an in-depth examination of its struggles is vital if the same mistakes are not to be made again.
It would also allow players, fans and administrators the opportunity to express their views and utilise their experiences, perhaps going some way to ensuring that some good comes out of the club’s likely demise.
The FFA was right to focus on the need to forge greater links with grassroots football and they now have the chance to back up those sentiments with action. If they choose not to take up the opportunity, the chances of football becoming Australia’s national game will have taken a hit.
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