It’s so crazy it just might work: Why Usain Bolt to the A-League might be worth it

Pat Smith Roar Guru

By Pat Smith, Pat Smith is a Roar Guru

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73 Have your say

    Hands up if you thought we’d be talking about the A-League three months before the season started. Nah, I didn’t either.

    Yet here we are, and all thanks to a crazy story about the Central Coast Mariners negotiating with Usain Bolt to bring the sprint superstar to Gosford for a trial ahead of season 2018-19. Bolt’s representative, Tony Rallis, has said a ‘deal in principle’ has been reached.

    Let’s be blunt: from a footballing perspective, it makes as much sense as Juventus sticking new signing Cristiano Ronaldo between the sticks to replace the outgoing Gigi Buffon. The quality of football on display in the A-League is now far superior to the perception of it – and that’s been the case for quite some time.

    That in itself is an issue. There aren’t enough people watching the competition, whether at the ground or on TV. For all the exquisite skills the likes of Milos Ninkovic, Leroy George, Diego Costa and Adrian Mierzejewski have contributed, they haven’t brought the much sought-after bums on seats with them.

    Average A-League crowds haven’t risen since the 2013-14 season, a year after the much-publicised arrivals of Alessandro Del Piero, Shinji Ono and Emile Heskey. TV ratings slumped last year.

    Expansion – if done correctly – will help alleviate some of those woes. The competition is in drastic need of freshening up, and a couple of new teams will do just that, even if introducing more sides – say, four – would be preferable.

    That only goes so far to solving the problems, though.

    Much as football fans tend to turn their noses up at them, what the A-League needs is casual fans giving the sport their patronage. They’re not purists or aficionados. They probably couldn’t tell you when that photo of Tony Vidmar in Montevideo was taken, nor would they be able to identify Charlie Yankos, Alex Tobin or Damian Mori.

    But their dollars are worth just as much as anyone else’s. Ditto for their eyeballs in regards to TV ratings. Say what you will about his footballing prowess (which, despite training with the likes of Borussia Dortmund, must be pretty much non-existent) Bolt will deliver casual fans to the A-League in droves.

    Who’s to say they won’t stick around after seeing the great football on offer? Sure, not every one of them will be signing up for season tickets this year and beyond, but some will be converted into regular A-League fans.

    It’s well known that Fox Sports are providing a $3 million marquee fund. Unless that’s spent on big-name players, it’s lost. I’ll happily admit a good chunk of it would be better spent on Keisuke Honda, who is reportedly back in the marquee frame for Melbourne Victory, but why not use the rest on signing one of the most recognisable athletes in the world?

    If it works out, football in Australia gets a much-needed shot in the arm. If Bolt gets through the trial and then crashes and burns in the competition proper, then we get to witness a truly glorious car crash.

    Sounds like a win-win to me.

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    The Crowd Says (73)

    • Roar Pro

      July 17th 2018 @ 12:38pm
      anon said | July 17th 2018 @ 12:38pm | ! Report

      This is like bringing CM Punk to the UFC.

      I’m sure people will watch but it will likely devalue the competition and make a mockery of the sport in this country.

      Didn’t all the soccer people have a giggle at the AFL for their ridiculous forays with Folou?

      At least he played a football code. This is a 195cm track athlete.

      • July 17th 2018 @ 1:02pm
        Mark said | July 17th 2018 @ 1:02pm | ! Report

        Exactly. The league’s credibility as a serious league is more important than a publicity stunt.

        If all it is is a bit of a publicity stunt, give him a run out in an FFA Cup game or trial game, then that’s fine. But let’s hope it’s nothing more serious than that.

      • July 17th 2018 @ 1:15pm
        Nemesis said | July 17th 2018 @ 1:15pm | ! Report

        Didn’t AFL clubs recruit basketball players? Or, are you suggesting Basketball is a form of Foot ball because apparently “football” refers to any sport with a ball played by people on foot, rather than when they’re riding horses?

        And, doesn’t AFL recruit javelin throwers & rowers & netball players and synchronised swimmers?

        Usain Bolt had a trial with a Bundesliga club, who will play Uefa Champions League in a few months.

        Usain Bolt returning to Borussia Dortmund for three-week trial

        • July 17th 2018 @ 3:33pm
          Brian George said | July 17th 2018 @ 3:33pm | ! Report

          And let’s not forget he’s already on Pro Evolution Soccer 2018, so he’s a shoein for the Mariners surely…

        • July 17th 2018 @ 3:34pm
          PEDRO said | July 17th 2018 @ 3:34pm | ! Report

          That was a sponsorship event organised by puma….

      • July 17th 2018 @ 3:56pm
        BrainsTrust said | July 17th 2018 @ 3:56pm | ! Report

        Bolt was brought up on football and cricke not athletcst, and can at leasst kick unlike Folau.
        Never saw Folau kick in rugby league.

    • July 17th 2018 @ 12:42pm
      KenoathCarnt said | July 17th 2018 @ 12:42pm | ! Report

      Dont know why the A league didnt concentrate on getting a top quality player instead. It just adds a further punchline to the comedy of the A league. Bolt has pace but that probably about it. Being fast with the ball at your feet is a separate story. Although on the other hand this will probly bring alot of attention which is great and I actually want to see how well he does and what he has to offer

      • July 17th 2018 @ 2:39pm
        Fadida said | July 17th 2018 @ 2:39pm | ! Report

        The A-league is no comedy.

        I’m sure most of your ilk wouldn’t have heard of Mike Phelan. He’s a former assistant to Sir Alex Ferguson and now involved with the CCM. His comments on the league were anything but comedy

    • July 17th 2018 @ 12:52pm
      Football is Life said | July 17th 2018 @ 12:52pm | ! Report

      I believe that the bloke has natural ability and he’s apparently a football tragic. If he can be found to be of appropriate standard you cannot begrudge the bloke for having a crack.
      I do notice that there have been comments fom the AFL Integrity Unit (now there’s an oxymoron) questioning the A-league’s credibility but my guess is that if the shoe were on the other foot it would be broadcast 24-7 on every media format for the next month. It amazes me that the AFL are the loudest to complain about flares and A-League crowd behaviour but when Collingwood fans are getting into brawls during and after games nothing is said. Hypocrites with the exception of Gary Lyon who is an island of integrity in a sea of double standards. The World Cup was a brilliant example of the power of football. The world gathered, partied and harmonised regardless of nationality, colour or language. If Bolt is good enough then let AFL suck up the global media brought to the A-League.
      I am not going to turn up to an AFL game with a camera I might get beaten up by the support staff.!

      • July 17th 2018 @ 2:45pm
        Fadida said | July 17th 2018 @ 2:45pm | ! Report

        You know if AFL are turning the guns on the A-league in the middle of their season it’s because they aren’t traveling as well as they’d like.
        And yes, they have had serious issues with fan behaviour, worse than anything the A-league has seen

      • July 17th 2018 @ 2:57pm
        Post_hoc said | July 17th 2018 @ 2:57pm | ! Report

        That’s a parody account

    • July 17th 2018 @ 12:56pm
      Probably said | July 17th 2018 @ 12:56pm | ! Report

      Who knows maybe it’ll get Optus keen on the local league. #yes

    • July 17th 2018 @ 12:58pm
      Nemesis said | July 17th 2018 @ 12:58pm | ! Report

      Which top quality player would you want ALeague to concentrate on recruiting? And, how much do you think this top quality player will require to be paid?

      • July 17th 2018 @ 1:18pm
        KenoathCarnt said | July 17th 2018 @ 1:18pm | ! Report

        Any player nearing the end of their career their has been a few good options lately. Not really fussed on who just more that we get someone. They all either go to MLS or China. Just look how classy Del Pierlo was. In terms of payment If Bolt gets signed he will be paid quite alot possibly 100k from the club and even more from the league surely this money could secure someone quite decent.

        • July 17th 2018 @ 2:30pm
          Nemesis said | July 17th 2018 @ 2:30pm | ! Report

          How about 10 specific names (1 for each club) & what you think they’d cost per annum?

          Or, if you can’t identify 10, how about 5 names?

          Or even 1 name.

          • July 17th 2018 @ 2:45pm
            KenoathCarnt said | July 17th 2018 @ 2:45pm | ! Report

            Yaya Toure,Ibrahimovic,Xavi,Casillas theres probly alot more…

            • July 17th 2018 @ 2:52pm
              Fadida said | July 17th 2018 @ 2:52pm | ! Report

              Ha! You’ve proved nemesis’ point. Toure was on more than £200k a week, and would get the same in China. Zlatan would be getting an entire AFL squads salary for a season in the MLS.

              Just recently Iniesta went to Japan ahead of Australia because they could pay him infinitely more.

              Where does the money come from? I know it’s hard for fans of Australian codes to grasp, but the $1-2million a year those players get is a monthly salary for good players in football

              • July 17th 2018 @ 3:14pm
                KenoathCarnt said | July 17th 2018 @ 3:14pm | ! Report

                Your missing the point… I was just suggesting there are good players the A league could get instead of Bolt calm down

              • July 17th 2018 @ 4:12pm
                shirtpants said | July 17th 2018 @ 4:12pm | ! Report

                But these are players the A league cannot get because financially we can’t offer the likes of USA and China can. Just because they’re available doesn’t mean we could get them.

            • July 17th 2018 @ 3:03pm
              Nemesis said | July 17th 2018 @ 3:03pm | ! Report

              “Yaya Toure,Ibrahimovic,Xavi,Casillas theres probly alot more…”

              I was hoping you’d give such names because it exposes how little you know about the wages involved with hiring players in a global football player market.

              None of those players are going to come to ALeague for $3-4M remuneration per year. Zlatan went to MLS for a reasonable annual wage, because he knows the Zlatan brand will grow enormously by playing in the world’s biggest consumer economy. With a population of 25 million and a time zone that is unfriendly to Europe & The Americas, you cannot compare Zlatan’s brand exposure in MLS with that in ALeague. So, we have to focus only on direct wages.

              ALeague cannot compete with the global markets. It’s not just football. The best talent in every global industry will attract higher wages overseas.

              • July 17th 2018 @ 3:17pm
                KenoathCarnt said | July 17th 2018 @ 3:17pm | ! Report

                Was just a suggestion… I’m sure there are decent players the A league can get.

              • July 17th 2018 @ 3:41pm
                Nemesis said | July 17th 2018 @ 3:41pm | ! Report

                Yes. There are lots of foreign players of higher quality than we currently have in Australia.

                Players like: Fred, Carlos, Berisha, Broich, Castro, Ninkovic, Adrian, Bobo, Carrusca, DelPierre, FBK, Fornaoli, etc. etc.

                But, because Aussies don’t recognise these names from PlayStation football, they don’t understand they are high quality.

              • July 18th 2018 @ 5:32am
                tim said | July 18th 2018 @ 5:32am | ! Report

                I think the player approaches should involve a bit of lateral thinking. Another World Cup winning Spaniard, Jesus Navas, would be a good example. He’s had anxiety issues in his career and while he’s apparently happy at Sevilla, in the unfortunate event that he again needs to escape the spotlight, the A-League might be a good fit. Employ Thomas Broich as a recruiter/mentor, and promote a lifestyle and competition appropriate to a large group of talented players.

      • July 17th 2018 @ 1:19pm
        Bplol said | July 17th 2018 @ 1:19pm | ! Report

        This is a good question. Also, do you mean top quality? Or do you mean big name drawcard that casual or less technically minded fans will recognise? Top quality players, sourced through good scouting is possible, however these players are not likely to spike the general publics interest. The best we realistically can hope for is ex top quality (big name) players heading towards retirement, which also devalues the competition to an extent. I would rather top quality not recognisable players as that will increase the standard in the league. I am however already a fan and dont need to be attracted to the sport.

        • July 17th 2018 @ 1:24pm
          KenoathCarnt said | July 17th 2018 @ 1:24pm | ! Report

          I should have been more specific I was more referring to a good quality player nearing the end of their career which would make them very cheap and also very recognizable from fans. They are also very useful still just look how good Del piero was.

          • July 17th 2018 @ 2:07pm
            Kangas said | July 17th 2018 @ 2:07pm | ! Report


            It’s all about the money

            Over the hill superstars like Rooney will go to China or USA for big paydays.

            A decent level player ex epl player in England for example could remain in the English championship on a few million a year .

            It’s all about the money

        • July 17th 2018 @ 2:53pm
          Fadida said | July 17th 2018 @ 2:53pm | ! Report

          Agree totally Bplol

    • July 17th 2018 @ 1:23pm
      Tom English said | July 17th 2018 @ 1:23pm | ! Report

      The last line is maybe a bit inaccurate, otherwise a good write.
      It’s more of a draw-draw.

      How much would you have to pay the bloke?!

      I doubt bringing the world’s fastest sprinter down under for 6 months+ (preseason as well?) would be cheap.
      It sounds T20esque. He’d come for two months or something if he could, but it’s a huge ask.

      • July 17th 2018 @ 1:31pm
        MQ said | July 17th 2018 @ 1:31pm | ! Report

        I thought I heard that the Mariners will be looking to the FFA to help fund the project.

        That seems to suggest that the cost might be quite high for someone who, at the very, very best, might be as good as Matty Simon.

        I guess it becomes a question of cost-benefit.

        Torres’ price ended up being around the $7.5 mill mark, which is pretty steep for the A-League.

        You’d hope the cost here wasn’t reaching the 50% mark of that valuation.

        Then again, Mariners are already saying publicly that they have international sponsors ready to jump on board.

        • July 17th 2018 @ 2:34pm
          Nemesis said | July 17th 2018 @ 2:34pm | ! Report

          All I’ve read is Usain might come to live in Gosford & train with CCM for 6 weeks. I’d be surprised if he’s paid 1 cent for this. Usain is driving this push to a pro-football contract. He certainly will never play Bundesliga, nor EPL, right now. Neither would any current ALeague player.

          But, as we’ve seen. Players whom no one rated before they played ALeague are now playing Bundesliga & EPL.

          That’s the beauty of the ALeague. It’s an ideal way for a no name footballer to be catapulted into the best European leagues..

          • July 17th 2018 @ 3:39pm
            PEDRO said | July 17th 2018 @ 3:39pm | ! Report

            There is no way in hell he is doing this without getting paid in some way. He is one of the most marketable athletes in the world, nothing he does is free.

            • July 17th 2018 @ 5:37pm
              Nemesis said | July 17th 2018 @ 5:37pm | ! Report

              I’m sure he’ll get some remuneration from various sponsors. I don’t think he’d get 1 cent from CCM, other than food & accommodation when he’s in Gosford. Maybe, he’d get something from FFA for coming here to trial. Given the media circus that would follow him & the sponsors that would line up to attach to him during the Trial Period, I’m sure any such investment by FFA to bring Bolt here for a Trial will have a positive ROI.

          • July 17th 2018 @ 4:46pm
            RbbAnonymous said | July 17th 2018 @ 4:46pm | ! Report

            There are plenty of videos of Usain Bolt trialing and playing football. He is not up to the level required, even at the NPL level. If he is signed to a A-league contract it will be a joke, simple as that. He is not good enough. We don’t need this for the A-league.

          • July 18th 2018 @ 5:53am
            tim said | July 18th 2018 @ 5:53am | ! Report

            Arzani is one current A-League player who could play Bundesliga or EPL.

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