Canberra to host Mariners' A-League game next season

GIO Stadium in Canberra is set to host an A-league match next season. Source: AAP

A-League football will return to Canberra for the first time in seven years after the ACT Government secured a deal to host the Central Coast Mariners v Wellington Phoenix game next season.

Central Coast will take their home clash against Wellington Phoenix to GIO Stadium in Canberra in November 2016 after the Mariners reportedly struck a deal with the ACT Government.

It will be the first time since 2009 that an A-League fixture has been played in the nation's capital.

While Canberra's hopes of getting an A-League team have been put on ice by Football Federation Australia (FFA), a big crowd could reinvigorate the city's campaign for inclusion in the competition. 

“The Central Coast Mariners are very proud to be partnering with the ACT Government and Capital Football to host a match in Canberra,” Mariners Chief Executive Shaun Mielekamp said.

“We see this is a first step towards forming a long term strategic partnership with the region.

“It is great to return to Canberra with a full flight Hyundai A-League match and we are committed to doing as much as we can in the lead up to help community football grow and our partnership with Capital Football will help us achieve this."

The Mariners will consider playing pre-season fixtures in Canberra, like they have done in previous years, while the government indicated an interest in hosting a Socceroos World Cup qualifier next year.

“Once again we are in the process of planning a pre-season campaign as part of the build up which will allow us to work with grassroots clubs and help football grow in the ACT," Mielekamp said.

“I am confident that this will not be a one-off occasion and we have every intention to make this match such a great success, confirming the fixture for many seasons to come.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Chief Minister Andrew Barr and his team who have been brilliant to work with and also would like to recognise Capital Football and Chairman Mark O’Neill for bringing this altogether." 

Almost 11,000 fans witnessed the Mariners take on Adelaide and Perth in Canberra in 2009.

Last year FFA boss David Gallop ruled out an expansion team in Canberra and blamed the capital's small population as the main reason.

"We firmly believe that any new clubs should be located in markets where there are millions, not just a few hundred thousand in population," Gallop said.

Canberra hosted seven matches during the 2015 Asian Cup with 82,398 tickets sold while Australia's World Cup qualifier against Kyrgyzstan in November last year attracted 19,412 football fans through the gates at GIO Stadium.

Source: SBS