Mariners want government backing to return to capital next season

Central Coast Mariners are willing to move games from Canberra Stadium next season in a bid to make their visits to the capital financially viable.
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The Mariners played two home games in Canberra this season at a significant loss after crowds of just 5497 and 5072 turned up.

Government funding is needed if the Mariners are to strike a deal that will keep the club playing in Canberra, however the parties have not met to discuss prospective games next season.

The Mariners are keen to return but the government is hesitant to enter into a long-term agreement after the poor crowds.

Mariners chief executive Shaun Mielekamp met with Capital Football boss Phil Brown in Sydney on Tuesday night to discuss possible solutions of keeping A-League action in the capital.

It is understood the Mariners’ future in Canberra now rests on negotiations between Capital Football and the ACT government.

Mielekamp has opened the door to playing at alternative venues such as Manuka Oval or Viking Park and the Mariners boss emphasised he’s keener to fix than flee.

“We’ve been going there for seven years, we’ve got 120 members and raft of relationships in Canberra which we want to maintain,” Mielekamp said.

“From a Central Coast perspective, one of the biggest challenges is finding the right venue that suits the market that wants to come.

“The logistical challenges with the size of Canberra Stadium poses a confronting task for any A-League club to come to town.”

ACT chief minister Andrew Barr declared Canberra now needs an A-League team if a proposed Civic Stadium is to be built, a project which has the Mariners support.

“We’re of the belief the more venue options available the more events Canberra will attract, so we’re very keen to hear what future options look like in Canberra in terms of other venues,” Mielekamp said.

“From what I’ve heard it sounds like it [Civic Stadium] would be something that is a lot more suited for football, so if it’s good for football will always have the support of the Central Coast.”

Mielekamp confirmed there has been no development in securing government funds and admitted the club was left frustrated with comments made by sport minister Yvette Berry in February.

“We’ve read and heard the comments from the minister which are unfortunate, she must have missed a lot of the community work we did leading into the games,” Mielekamp said.

“But we understand everyone has a role to play so we just have to progress forward and look at all the options.

“We’re hoping of a good discussion between the government and Capital Football around our Remembrance Day game especially, because we think it’s a core fixture for us and we hope they are doing everything they can to continue a long tradition in the city.”

The Mariners boss said there were plenty of positive to come out of Tuesday’s meeting, including discussions surrounding the Capital Draft pathways program.

“The capital draft is an important program which we need to continue to improve and make sure there it works for everyone. We think that’s a core ingredient to untapping the talent,” Mielekamp said.

“It was a positive catch up with Capital Football… we had to do a bit of a review as to what went right and wrong from our games in Canberra which were a financial struggle for us.

“To get things structured moving forward, it will start with conversations around preseason and the Capital Draft and keep peeling back the onions and see what the future looks like.”

Berry did not want to comment until she had spoken with Brown who did not return calls from Fairfax media on Thursday.