By now I am sure you have all heard or read the news that Graham Arnold has pledged his loyalty to the club...
By now I am sure you have all heard or read the news that Graham Arnold has pledged his loyalty to the club, rejecting overtures from our rivals Sydney FC to join the Sky Blues as their Head Coach. This is outstanding news for the Mariners, as we now maintain the stability and winning practices that have brought us so much success over the past two seasons.
Indeed, we are arguably more formidable on and off the park than ever before. Late last week, fan favourite and former Head Coach Lawrie McKinna signed on with the club as General Manager - Football & Commercial, ensuring the Mariners now possess an extremely strong mix of knowledge, experience and personality. Add the likes of Tony Walmsley, Phil Moss, Andrew Clark and John Crawley to the blend, and our brains trust is looking especially healthy heading into season eight of the Hyundai A-League - and before that our date with destiny against Nagoya Grampus in the AFC Champions League next Tuesday in Japan!
Last week I wrote to you addressing our ongoing discussions with Head Coach Graham Arnold, which as stated have now been resolved. In that column, I promised to write again to discuss a number of other subjects to do with the football club, including the current ownership situation, the progress of our impressive Centre of Excellence in Tuggerah, as well as my thoughts on the state of the game in Australia.
Since then I am pleased to have learned the Hunter Sports Group (HSG) have reviewed its decision to hand back the Newcastle Jets- Hyundai A-League licence, and will now compete in the Hyundai A-League ongoing. Our club was disappointed at the prospect of “no Newcastle” in the competition, as we believe our rivalry with our foe to the north adds immense colour to the competition. Now, the “F3 Derby” continues!
Following negotiations with club owners, FFA has recently established the Joint A-League Strategic Committee (JALSC) to increase club input into the running of the A-League. The JALSC met for the first time last week, and some good initiatives were discussed at great length. I believe a clear pathway can be implemented to ensure the Hyundai A-League is not only made viable, but flourishes in future seasons. Hopefully the JALSC, in conjunction with the club owners, will establish a number of practical options that can be implemented by FFA to ensure the sustainability of all Hyundai A-League clubs and the competition itself.
Having touched on the Hyundai A-League model, the new JALSC and Newcastle, it is worthwhile mentioning what effect all of these events have had on us over the last few months. We executed contracts for the sale of a substantial interest in the Mariners to a Russian consortium several months ago. Since then, there have certainly been some turbulent days in Australian football. With each event has come an inquiry from the Russians for an explanation on the events of the day and a request for further time to see how the events play out. It-s quite understandable that an investor entering a new country would raise such concerns. The perception of uncertainty is the enemy of anyone planning a long-term investment, despite our best efforts to assure the Russians that the Mariners and the Hyundai A-League have a strong foundation. We have agreed to these extensions as requested, and it has caused us some angst. The current extension expires next month, and I meet with them on a weekly basis, however they have re-affirmed their intentions as recently as today.
Undoubtedly, one of the reasons for our success on and off the field has been our stability. We have had just two Coaches, two Chairmen and one Chief Executive Officer since the A-League-s inception. We have shareholders who have been prepared to stay the course for their love of the game, and these shareholders are willing to trade within their means as much as possible. Put simply, our small but determined shareholders and staff are committed to this football club, and we believe our Centre of Excellence (CoE) in Tuggerah is testament to this.
Certainly, the Central Coast Mariners CoE is one of the most exciting achievements we have made in the Mariners- short but proud history. Stage One will be formally opened in May and encompasses the Soccer5s complex (already open), the Football Department (the guys have already moved in) and a full-size training field (all laid and now being carefully mowed and rolled regularly in readiness for pre-season training). Our players and staff are impressed with their new facilities, and we look forward to the opportunity of showing our fans around our base this year.
Stage Two of the CoE, the Aquatic Centre, commences in two weeks after we received our Construction Certificate earlier this month from Wyong Shire Council. We also expect to be announcing an operator for the Hotel in May.
We always look forward to your feedback and wish to thank all our supporters for their support throughout what has been a memorable, and highly successful 2011/12 season. And it's not over yet!