Mariners forced to wait for approval on W-League team

Central Coast Mariners are anxiously awaiting the green light from Football Federation Australia on the club's proposal to field a team in next season's W-League competition.

Mariners W-League

Central Coast Mariners' Jenna Kingsley, right, in 2009 W-League action Source: Getty Images

Greg O'Rourke, the head of the A-League and W-League, said the FFA weren't in a position to make a call until further talks have been held regarding broadcast rights for the W-League and the economics around the free-to-air component of the television coverage.

Central Coast haven't fielded a W-League team since the 2009-10 season due to funding issues, but the club announced last December that it had informed the FFA of their aim to field a team in the competition next season.

The Mariners have since been busy, behind the scenes, building their bid and CEO Shaun Mielekamp told The World Game the club was ready to go.

"We've confirmed in detail our strategy for the W-League with the FFA and it has actually been two years we've been working on that," Mielekamp said. 

"The aim is to make sure we come into the competition, providing better pathways for the girls and also provide some better financial opportunities for them in their football careers.

"The PFA have got a strategy based around 60 girls in the competition earning $60,000 each annually from a football career and we've really based our strategy around ensuring we can deliver that component for our players.

"It has been a long process and because the opportunity to field a W-League team is in our current licence we're at the stage now where we're saying to FFA, 'yes, we're going to activate that component of our licence'.

"We've worked through that with them and at the moment it's building towards what will hopefully be confirmation from FFA that they won't block it from happening."

Asked what the decision-making protocol was as far as the club understood, Mielekamp said: "What it is, we've got an opportunity for W-League in our licence, but the FFA have got the opportunity to say no, so it comes under the approval of the FFA."

Last season's W-League, which ran from November 5 to February 12, included nine teams, necessitating a weekly bye for one side. An even number of teams is obviously ideal.

Southern Expansion, one of the groups pushing for inclusion in an expanded A-League down the track, recently registered their disappointment at the FFA choosing not to accept their offer to field a W-League team next season.

But the Mariners have obviously been setting up for a lot longer in a bid to re-enter the competition.

O'Rourke told The World Game the processes the FFA were working through were complex.

"FFA are evaluating a number of options for further investment in the Westfield W-League for next season," he said.

"This includes options around the number of teams, number of games and improved payments for players.

"These decisions will take into account both football and financial investment and also a longer-term strategy that requires prioritisation.

"Added to this we are currently in discussion regarding broadcast opportunities for the Westfield W-League and also a whole-of-game change to the operating model on both the Hyundai A-League and the W-League.

"There are many moving parts and many interdependent discussions which make it unwise to confirm any changes until these take their course."

It is understood funding for a 10th W-League club would be affected by the financial terms of the free-to-air component of the TV deal and the week-to-week costs could either be covered by funds from the deal or Central Coast might have to find extra sponsors to help fund it themselves.

Mielekamp said the club would cross that bridge when they come to it and that in the meantime, they were having discussions with potential players.

"It would be our aim to have a coach and a marquee player lined up for any announcement that Central Coast were coming back into the competition," he said.

The PFA meanwhile, are pushing hard in support of the concept of the W-League growing.

"Within the PFA's Grassroots to Greatness Roadmap, we advocate for a 10-club competition starting from next season, with consideration to expanding further from this base in the seasons that follow," PFA CEO John Didulica told The World Game.

"To be internationally competitive we need to create as many playing opportunities as we can. The obligation on the sport is to make sure these opportunities are of the highest possible quality.

"One of the challenges will be ensuring we don’t dilute the talent within the W-League, however with so many young girls playing football and so many high-quality international players around the world, the right investment at club level will ensure that the overall quality is enhanced year on year.

"We need a critical mass of high-quality players within Australia if we are to get to where we want, which is to be world champions and Olympic gold medallists."

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5 min read
Published 26 May 2017 at 5:11pm
By Greg Prichard