Time to scrap salary cap, says Mariners boss Charlesworth

Central Coast Mariners owner Mike Charlesworth with the A-League Championship in 2013 Source: AAP

Central Coast Mariners owner Mike Charlesworth has called for an end to the A-League salary cap ahead of a critical owners’ meeting in Sydney on Thursday which will also look at ways to institute a transfer system across the competition.

Charlesworth, who continues the search for an investment partner to help bankroll the chronically under-funded Mariners, believes the cap - which stands at $3.2 million - is no longer fit for purpose.

“Personally, I’d scrap the cap and create a complete environment which would enable clubs to trade, buy and sell players,” he said.

“I think it would create a lot more interest and bring us into line with 99 per cent of developed leagues in the world.

“That’s what I’d be doing - boosting interest in the game outside of what happens on the pitch.

“That’s one of many initiatives that can be brought in - and will be brought in. I think there’ll be a lot of discussion around that in the next few days.”

With the A-League in the process of uncoupling from Football Federation Australia, the destiny and direction of the struggling competition is in the hands of the club bosses, with supporters and stakeholders looking for circuit breakers to halt an incremental decline in metrics across multiple fronts.

Recently appointed special advisor to the clubs, former Premier League boss Richard Scudamore will address Thursday’s meeting and attend the Sydney derby over the weekend as part of his latest mission to Australia.

Charlesworth insisted the removal of the cap wouldn’t create a rich versus poor landscape, pointing out that such a disparity already exists.

“That’s what we already have - look at the difference between Sydney FC and the Mariners today,” he said.

“Let’s not kid ourselves - that’s what happens in football and you have to accept that.

“Obviously, at the Mariners we’ll try and break that trend but it comes down to money.

“We’re trying hard to do what we can to build things off the pitch, like getting the management rights to our stadium (from the council).

“That would be great for us and secure our existence on the Central Coast. It makes sense for the Mariners and the community.

“If we find investors then things might change (on the field) - but I don’t have the financial capacity to lose more money than I currently do.

“Unfortunately, that’s the state of play right now. I feel for all the owners who’ve put so much into their clubs since the formation of the league.

“That’s why we have to turn things around, and I think we will.”

Chris Fong, deputy chairman of the Australian Professional Football Clubs Association (APFCA), the umbrella body for the clubs, favours the implementation of a transfer system.

The concept is also being championed by FFA CEO James Johnson, with discussions in to what form it might take ongoing with the PFA ahead of the next Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Fong, though, dismissed a report which claimed the clubs wanted the freedom to bring in five marquees each, exempt from the salary cap.

“I think that one may have been misunderstood,” he said. “I don’t think it makes any sense. What would be the purpose?

“There’s no point in analysing it because it’s not even a subject. It has never been discussed.”

However, Fong confirmed there was a push to raise the foreign player quota to seven per club, but said that was being “worked through by the CBA committee”, which includes PFA chief John Didulica.

On Scudamore’s visit, Fong - who is also vice-chairman of Brisbane Roar - added: “He’s already provided some noteworthy advice which has changed a bit of the thinking on how we do things.”