Usain Bolt has put the spotlight on the Central Coast Mariners and millionaire owner Mike Charlesworth
Usain Bolt has put the spotlight on the Central Coast Mariners and millionaire owner Mike Charlesworth

Mariners’ 10,000 reasons to sign Bolt

MILLIONAIRE Mariners owner Mike Charlesworth has explained his willingness to gamble $3 million on Usain Bolt, saying: "Tell me the last Central Coast player to draw almost 10,000 fans."

After jetting into Australia to watch Bolt's hyped footballing debut on Friday night, Charlesworth told The Daily Telegraph he was convinced the Olympic legend could not only win an A-League contract, but propel the perennial battlers up among the likes of Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory.

While the Jamaican sprint king appeared off the pace in his hyped trial at Central Coast Stadium - where he played 21 minutes at left wing - the UK businessman walked away convinced his financial investment in Project Bolt will be cash well spent.

Apart from attracting almost 10,000 fans, Bolt's megastar presence also saw the Mariners brand beamed into 60 countries globally.

Even a tweet from the club's social media account, showing his first tentative touches against a team of Central Coast amateurs, has been viewed over 1.2 million times.

Should the world's fastest man eventually be offered a Mariners contract, Charlesworth will seek at least $900,000 from Football Federation Australia.

Yet The Daily Telegraph understands the British entrepreneur is also willing to fund up to 70 per cent of an expected $3 million deal himself.

Quizzed on his willingness to spend big on a footballing novice, Charlesworth said: "We've got to think outside the box here at the Mariners."

"I don't want to be seen as a small club. I want to be competing with the clubs in Sydney, in Melbourne, the so-called bigger clubs," he said.

"And for us to do that we have to think differently.

 

Usain Bolt thanks fans after the match. Picture: Getty Images
Usain Bolt thanks fans after the match. Picture: Getty Images

 

"Signing Usain Bolt, it's innovative, it's creative and we think he's a real chance of improving our team in a creative way.

"Of course it's got potential commercial advantages too. That goes without saying So we're trying this.

"Yes, it's an experiment, we know that. But do I think it's going to come off? Yes, I do."

And as for the decision to guarantee Bolt $3 million?

"Ah, look," he said, "I'm not going to comment on anyone's contract at the Mariners."

OK, so how about we ask then why is Bolt deserving of what will undoubtedly be the biggest contract in A-League history?

"I don't know if anyone could tell me a Central Coast player who has ever sold almost 10,000 tickets before," Charlesworth continued, alluding to the Friday night crowd. "I mean, what effect has (superstar Japanese signing) Keisuke Honda made on ticket sales with Melbourne Victory?

"So while this is a risk, it's a calculated risk. And, yes, we've made mistakes in the past. We'll make them again. But my philosophy is that if you let two goals in and score three … well, everything is fine."

 

Mariners owner Mike Charlesworth is ready to take a punt on Usain Bolt. Picture: Mark Scott
Mariners owner Mike Charlesworth is ready to take a punt on Usain Bolt. Picture: Mark Scott

 

As yet, the FFA has refused to guarantee anything from its marquee player fund for Bolt's contract.

But as for their hesitation annoying Charlesworth?

"We've committed (to pay a contract figure) before anyone else, that's the risk we've taken," he said. "And right now, I understand the FFA want to look at him closely before investing.

"We're the same.

"But when we sit down with them in the coming months, if we do want to sign him, then I'll be really annoyed if they don't come to the table."



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