Central Coast Mariners owner Mike Charlesworth has accused Football NSW of flouting FIFA edicts and “natural justice” in opting to hand an NPL1 spot to Western Sydney Wanderers at the expense of the likes of the Mariners Academy side.
Signaling the likelihood of legal action and a potential injunction, Charlesworth is indignant at Wanderers being selected to fill the void left by Sutherland Sharks for the remainder of the season, insisting it will result in NPL2 Mariners losing some of their most promising youngsters to their Sydney rivals.
It’s understood Football NSW were urged by national team coach Graham Arnold to promote all the state’s A-League academy teams to the top tier to provide budding Olyroos and Young Socceroos with regular game time at an elevated level.
However, when the Sharks pulled out for financial reasons in midweek, it was the Wanderers who were allegedly handed an invite - even though they trailed second placed Mariners on last season’s ladder, losing to them 5-0 and 1-0 along the way.
“For me it’s not just the damage to our academy and the prospect of losing our best young players to the Wanderers, it’s what it says about the governance structures which can allow something like this to happen,” said Charlesworth.
“It clearly shows a lack of integrity. How can promotion be based on somebody’s opinion rather than their league position?
“Graham Arnold wanted promotion across the board but a decision was made to discriminately apply this recommendation, resulting in one club receiving beneficial treatment and two other clubs (Mariners and Newcastle Jets) and their players missing out on this opportunity.
“Frankly, what’s happened here is against the fundamentals of fair play and FIFA regulations, as I understand them.
“All we’re asking for our academy team is a fair crack of the whip, and that’s not what’s happened here.
“I don’t understand how this can happen in this day and age in Australian football. It’s against natural justice.”
Charlesworth has sought a rethink from Football NSW in his quest to see the decision rescinded.
“It’s a frustrating obstacle to confront as we strive to provide the best opportunities and pathways for our academy players,” he added.
“To see a determination that hand picks which clubs are handed an opportunity and which clubs are not reeks of poor governance and process, and the correspondence that I have received from the chairman of Football NSW (Anter Isaac) is unacceptable and patronising to our club.
“This is why we’re looking at our legal options.
“If Football NSW wish to follow the technical direction of Graham Arnold that’s great, but to pick and choose which parts of his recommendation are adopted to benefit individual clubs is the type of behaviour that erodes the trust that the football community has in the administrators of our sport.
"They should promote us along with Wanderers and the Jets.”
The season is due to recommence in late July or early August, stretching until October with promotion and relegation not being enforced.