Central Coast Mariners are bottom of the A-League table and need investment which could be provided by transfer fees.

It could be provided, except they’re banned in the A-League. Not only does this hurt the Mariners, but the A-League as a whole.

Matthew Millar, the young starlet unearthed from the National Premier Leagues, has been a revelation for Central Coast this season with his spark down the flank. Millar’s season has drawn plenty of admirers, none greater than Central Coast’s fiercest rivals Newcastle who have nabbed Millar for free as of next season.

You might ask why on earth the Mariners would allow such a situation to eventuate, but they essentially only have two options available to them in the player market: the player walks or as of last year, they get loaned out however, the loan cannot involve a loan fee or option to buy.

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It’s not the first time Central Coast has faced the issue after watching Lachlan Wales move interstate to Melbourne City after allowing his contract to expire. For context, that’s the equivalent of allowing $250,000 Australian Dollars walk out the door.

Central Coast is the example in this piece but the issue is prevalent across the league and far more prevalent than first thought. After all, Jacob Melling and Jonathon Aspropotamitis wound up in Mariners colours through similar circumstances and there was no reward for the Western Sydney Wanderers.

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Part of the allure of transfer fees is the trickle-down effect such fees can have on the football ecosystem. That might sound like political double-speak or a cop-out but clubs such as Central Coast are spending significant expense on operating a youth academy, yet they receive little recompense if players want to move within the league. Even a small fee would be able to subsidise the Mariners operations or even possibly contribute to bringing in a higher calibre marquee.

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The absence of transfer fees makes little sense given how football as an economy thrives upon the sale of players, which in-turn funds the academies, facilities and expansion of club endeavours. It is even further frustrating when clubs are able to receive transfer fees from overseas clubs yet the main market for Australian players given A-League rules is Australia.

It’s not to say that transfer fees are the sole solution to the A-League’s issues but it is part of a multi-mode approach to allow a more fair and equitable league which could be far more self-sufficient than is currently the case.

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If the argument is that transfer fees will greatly distort the league and increase the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’, isn’t that already evident when Melbourne City benefited from Manchester City’s considerable wealth and purchased Anthony Caceres and Luke Brattan only to loan them back to Melbourne City? Or when Fox Sports and the A-League initiated a ‘marquee fund’ which was used at the FFA’s discretion?

The ban on transfers was initially seen as a way to ensure clubs didn’t live outside their means and maintained financial viability as well as to stop small clubs losing players to the big clubs. However, the Bosman rule already allows the latter to happen and arguably this disadvantages clubs such as Central Coast more given they recoup nothing in the aftermath of a departure.

The Mariners should not have been in a position where they were held to ransom by Millar and Wales and waited as their contracts dwindled down to be void. The Mariners should at minimum have had the option to shop Wales and Millar around earlier to get return on their investment which could kick-start their rebuild.

The rule was created with the best of intentions but now the A-League exists in a different time, a different place and a different set of circumstances.

The rules need to reflect this change.

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A student at University of South Australia who hopes his writing disguises his lack of sporting prowess and a fan who masquerades his choice in mediocre teams as being hipster