Despite rumors and suggestions to the contrary, Central Coast Mariners say they're staying in Gosford. An article in Tuesday's Sydney Morning Herald put forward the notion that the Mariners are seeking to play more games at North Sydney Oval as an attempt to lower operating costs and further develop a growing fan base in Sydney's northern suburbs. Central Coast have an upcoming game scheduled for the Oval on December 19, rescheduled from Week 6 due to Wellington Phoenix's many international absences.
Mike Charlesworth, the club's owner, was quoted in the SMH questioning the long-term viability of the Gosford market:
"One of the things I really need to do coming in as a new owner is to look at all possibilities and build a sustainable, long-term future. It's not sustainable, the losses that we're making exceeding AUS $1m a year. It's not sustainable for the Central Coast or for any particular owner, certainly not myself. So something has got to change and if it doesn't change there won't be a Central Coast Mariners, full stop. Finito.
"We have to make this work because that's the alternative, there is no football club, full stop, unless we do something. So that means a lot of work on the Central Coast and a lot of work in other regions."
While Dominic Bossi's article suggests that the club could eventually look to move permanently to North Sydney, the main thrust of the story is that the Mariners are looking to play several games each season at the Oval 70km to the south. According to Bossi, Charlesworth denied the club would be rebranded or lose an association with the Central Coast region.
In response, the club issued a press release denying any such intentions, reiterating the club's dedication to the region, particularly in the Centre of Excellence that is hoped will house both the men's and women's national teams in the future. The Mariners say they are working for further engagement of a larger catchment area, rather than testing the waters for a potential relocation:
"While the Mariners' commitment to the Coast is unwavering, recent analysis of the club's membership base highlighted that approximately 20 percent of the club's members currently reside in Sydney's northern suburbs. As such, the club already views Sydney's northern suburbs as an extension of Mariner territory and is working closely with the Northern Suburbs Football Association to ensure the players, officials, volunteers and supporters of the region have a Hyundai A-League team to call their own."
So which assessment will be more accurate? It looks likely that the 2013/14 season will have to play out before any bigger picture decisions are made. Despite winning the premiership three years ago and the championship last season, it seems the Central Coast region is not yet without questions as far as building an exclusive base for the club. Though to be fair, reaching out to supporters from further afield can only help the Mariners, even if it means scheduling a game or two further south.