The A-League is suffering financially and now a club stands at the very brink. Neil Sherwin reports from Australia.
In the wake of Australia’s failed bid to host the 2022 World Cup, there has been more bad news on the domestic front with the news that the North Queensland Fury may cease to exist after just two years in the league.
Robbie Fowler’s first club Down Under are struggling financially and a Football Federation of Australia (FFA) board meeting in Sydney today (Thursday) came no closer to resolving their future.
Goalkeeper Justin Pasfield has already agreed to join the Central Coast Mariners for the 2011/12 campaign and Isaka Cernak will be on the move again having only joined the club this season. The Fury has just one player signed for next year, and while David Williams is a superb talent with a great future ahead of him, it is not yet clear whether he will have a club to return to for preseason training.
The max exodus from Townsville continued this week with young striker Chris Payne confirming a two year deal with the Newcastle Jets and Osama Malik announcing that he will return to Adelaide United.
“We’ve lost two young players who have a passion for the place, who really wanted to stay here," he said. "And that’s more disappointing for the club. It’s probably the worst we’ve felt as a club for a very, very long time. Losing two players who could be the hub of the future of the club in one go, is hard to take.”
Fury’s hierarchy were hoping that the FFA would keep the club afloat next year before their plans to heavily involve the local community kick in. The idea of getting the Townsville public on board was met positively by the FFA, but something still needs to be done in the short term.
“We need to see a very strong commitment from the local community in terms of the team," said FFA CEO Ben Buckley. “They came to us proposing a community based model which we think is a very good model conceptually. We support that model. We’ve gone back to them saying we need to see it capitalized in a certain time period before we can make our commitment to support the club. That decision needs to be made by the end of this year.”
Recent league performances have done little to help the situation with the Fury sitting bottom of the eleven team league having won just one of their last seven games. Indeed, the crowd of just 1658 for last week’s win over Gold Coast United was the second lowest ever in the league.
“We will want to have a substantial sum of money that is required to run the team from Townsville – then we will look at what we can do,” said FFA chairman Frank Lowy. “This job is for the people of Townsville. We will assist them but we will not carry the Townsville team on our books. This is not what we are supposed to do. The money we have belongs to all of the clubs. We can’t just support one club. We don’t have any resources to do that. If there is to be a club in Townsville it’s up to the Townsville people. They’ve got to want it, and they’ve got to pay for it. We will assist but will not take the load on.”
If the Fury were to fold it would be a massive blow to a league that already has question marks over another of its teams (Gold Coast United) and has had plans for a new Sydney based club cancelled all together.
Neil is the co-editor of the wonderful BackPageFootball.com, and you can follow him on Twitter @neilsherwin