Mariners facing relegation threat
Battling A-League outfit Central Coast Mariners are facing relegation at the end of next season if they collect another wooden spoon.
Wellington Phoenix are also in the gun as they battle to hit a series of Football Federation Australia performance metrics by the end of 2019-20.
The current CPA (Club Participation Agreement) stipulates that any club which finishes last three years in a row, or four out of six seasons can be relegated.
The Mariners, who are away to Melbourne Victory on Sunday at AAMI Park finished last in 2015-16 and 2017-18 and need a minor miracle to avoid the wooden spoon this season.
The Gosford club, who replaced coach Mike Mulvey with Alen Stajcic, have won twice in 24 games, securing a miserly 10 points - five behind Brisbane Roar - while shipping 62 goals.
FFA chief executive David Gallop, who admitted the Mariners operated in a tough market, said underperforming clubs need to be held to account.
"It is far too early in the process to suggest what might be included in any CPA going forward but consideration would need to be given to the process for any club that underperforms consistently,'' Gallop said.
"The proper management of any league requires KPIs that assist the continued good performance of the constituent clubs and contribute to the strength of the league as a whole.
"Any new operating model for the A League will need to take on that responsibility. The current clause indicates grounds for a review rather than anything automatic."
While the new A-League operating model is due to be resolved by June 30, the Mariners' results are now under the blowtorch.
"If the club finishes last in the A-League for three consecutive seasons of the term or finishes last in four out of six seasons, the FFA may notify the club that it is not satisfied with the club's compliance," the CPA states.
Clauses 17.4 and 17.5 state: "If within 30 days of receipt of a notice FFA is still not satisfied that the club can and will continue to meet its obligations under this agreement, FFA may … implement the requirement of a bank guarantee or (call a status meeting).
"If the club and FFA have not been able to resolve any one or more of the issues set out in the notice and one is either a flagrant or serious breach of this Agreement or a material failure of the club to meet its obligations and Minimum Performance Measures over the period leading up to the review point, FFA may terminate this Agreement with immediate effect by giving notice to the club."
It's understood that the existing CPA will be largely retained when the A-League becomes independent next season.
Gold Coast United was the last A-League club to be relegated, in 2012, after breaking several other CPA rules, paving the way for Western Sydney Wanderers to enter.
As it stands, the Mariners could only be relegated to the state league (National Premier Leagues), although the release of the FFA's second division White Paper is imminent.
Promotion-relegation has been a hot topic in Australian soccer, with grassroots and traditionalists calling for the system to be opened up, a la most European leagues including England, Italy, Spain and Germany.