'Bizarrely, I think A-League future is good’, says Mariners owner Charlesworth

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Mike Charlesworth - the A-League owner under the most financial stress - has gazed into a post-coronavirus future, claiming it might offer football the “chance to recalibrate and reset” from ground zero.

Central Coast Mariners - the club Charlesworth rescued from extinction a decade ago - are tipped to suffer the greatest hardship during the A-League lockdown, yet the Englishman sees a ray of hope amid the bloodletting.

Undaunted by the doomsday prospect of rights holder Fox Sports tearing up their broadcast agreement, and an indefinite adjournment in play, Charlesworth told The World Game: “It depends on where we end up and no-one knows that right now.

“What’s our income? What are our costs? If you look at it economically, if you have no membership revenue, no broadcast revenue and no sponsors then you can’t launch a league.

“But, bizarrely, I do think the future is really quite good because there’s an opportunity, finally, to get all the stakeholders together to reboot, reset and recalibrate the whole football economy.

“There’d be renewed enthusiasm when it restarts and a huge demand for content.

“I genuinely believe if we can come through the next few months we will be in a much healthier position long-term.

“We need a bit of positivity right now, don’t we.

“The game has been fractured every since I’ve been involved, and I feel we’ll be able to get through this adversity and come out the other side a lot stronger.

“Whatever we had before was broken - if we get all the stakeholders united then we can succeed.

Charlesworth believes football’s basics are still favourable, with the nation’s largest participation base - and still growing.

“But you have to create an environment that attracts investment, and I can only speak for the Mariners - a club that loses such a high percentage of its revenue and is unprofitable - for us it’s very difficult,” he added.

“If we were sustainable - or within reach of that - I’d have attracted investors and the team would have been competitive.

“We’d have been able to grow, rather than go the other way. But I don’t have the financial means to lose an extra $1-2 million a year to create a more competitive team.”

There are concerns Fox Sports might place an immediate freeze on payments made to clubs as part of the broadcast deal - worth $57.6 million annually - throwing the competition even deeper into the mire.

Charlesworth admits he doesn’t know yet how the Mariners will tackle the turmoil, with several clubs rumoured to be informing staff of imminent cutbacks and stand-downs - and talk of players being asked to accept salary cuts.

“This situation is something the clubs are looking at collectively, and decisions will have to be made.”

Charlesworth claims the Mariners might, in some aspects, be better equipped than others to ride out the coronavirus storm.

“The difference with us is that we’ve been in survival mode for 10 years and are used to it,” he added.

“It was a similar situation when I ‘bailed out’ the club.”

Charlesworth is used to be vilified for under-funding the club, and says he accepts the flak.

However, he claimed some critics “don’t understand the facts”.

“There has been interest from parties in buying the license and moving it to another city - but nobody has wanted to keep the club on the Central Coast," he said.

“The reality is I’ve spent a greater percentage of my personal income than most people do in the A-League.

“I have single-handedly kept the club alive for 10 years.

“We have won a title and a lot of wooden spoons. We’ve done a lot but we have survived.

“Success right now for probably all the clubs is going to be survival.

“I’m probably stressing a little bit less than some of the others because I am used to it.”