If the citizens of Gosford wanted to save their football club they would fill every available seat for the Mariners’ next home game against Adelaide on March 31.
The fact that they won’t says a lot about what’s gone wrong with the A-League.
The Central Coast Mariners don’t belong to the people of Gosford, they belong to Mike Charlesworth.
And while it would be easy to rip into Charlesworth following the Mariners’ humiliating 8-2 loss to Wellington Phoenix on Saturday night, there are bigger issues at play.
One is the fact that Charlesworth clearly doesn’t have the funds to bankroll the Mariners on his own.
How fair is it then to lay the entirety of the blame for the Mariners’ predicament at his feet?
And when is Football Federation Australia going to acknowledge the salary cap isn’t helping the A-League, it’s hindering it?
Dom Bossi wrote a fantastic piece for the Sun-Herald yesterday in which he pointed out, among other things, that the turnover of players at A-League clubs is among the highest in world football.
Far from offering the A-League stability, the habit of signing players on short-term contracts has instead resulted in a never-ending revolving door of faces.
And where cash-strapped foreign clubs often resort to selling players as a means of generating income, the lack of transfer fees in the A-League means our clubs can’t even do that.
So what is the league doing to help owners like Charlesworth create revenue? Not a whole lot as far as anyone can tell.
The salary cap hasn’t even had the effect of equalising the league, which is surely the whole point of having one in the first place.
The big clubs are still the big clubs and the rest do what they can to keep up.
At the end of the day – or in this case, one of the strangest rounds of the season – the salary cap has outlived its usefulness.
Little wonder the ten clubs are so determined to run an independent A-League when the current constraints effectively doom them to a cycle of mediocrity.
But on that note, the Mariners players themselves can hardly come away from a second 8-2 loss within the space of a year without additional scrutiny.
Where’s the professionalism? Where’s the passion? Where’s the pride?
In many countries that sort of defeat would warrant a visit from the club’s hardcore fans at the next training session, but here in Australia it seems to be all smiles and sunshine at the end of every game.
It’s pretty clear that the lack of relegation – or any real consequences for finishing bottom – has fostered a culture of indifference.
It’s almost as if having the same ten teams play the same number of rounds with many of the same players every single season for the past seven years maybe wasn’t the most sensible idea?
As it stands even expansion can’t come quickly enough, with the A-League in danger of imploding before Macarthur South West Sydney even joins the league.
And the addition of Western United for the 2019-20 campaign – although desperately needed – means there’ll be a bye every round next season.
Meanwhile, the dwindling few are expected to keep putting their hands in their pockets and turn up week in and week out to support a league that is fast dying on its feet.
The whole A-League needs a reboot, starting with the salary cap and hopefully ending with the competition looking more like every other football league around the world and less like a closed shop run by a bunch of accountants.
Things simply aren’t working right now, and in truth they haven’t been for a long time.
Changes need to be made.
Because two 8-2 results within the space of 12 months might be an anomaly, but three would be nothing short of a disgrace.