The world has followed Bolt to the A-League – but will he stay?
Usain Bolt, arguably the greatest sprinter of all time, has recently decided to begin a football (soccer) career. Since July, the three-time Olympic athlete has been trialing with the Central Coast Mariners, a professional team in the Australian soccer league. Bolt played in a few ‘friendly’ pre-season games for the Mariners, during which he performed relatively well.
However, Bolt’s trial period with the Mariners has now finished and contract negotiations are underway. It was reported that Bolt was chasing a $3 million contract if he was to remain in the A-League, but the Mariners could only table around $150 000 (Matthey, 2018).
Bolt’s worth to the Mariners and the A-League would be invaluable. The international exposure and attention he would draw from both a fan and corporate perspective would be enormous (Francis, 2018). In a country such as Australia, where soccer does not have high participation numbers in comparison to other sports like AFL, Rugby League and Cricket, Bolt’s influence would surely grow the sport tremendously. The Mariners have already reaped the rewards of the Bolt effect, with one pre-season match attracting around 12000 spectators, of which would have normally been lucky to draw 500 fans (Gatt, 2018). Therefore, Usain Bolt’s involvement in the A-League has and will continue to play a significant role in growing the league and the Mariners’ reach.
Despite this influence, does Bolt really deserve a $3 million one-year deal?
Considering he had never played soccer before the Mariners took him in and he really isn’t at the elite standard of even the A-League, my answer to that question is no. The league and the club need to be fair to current and upcoming players, who have been training tirelessly to ‘make it’ professionally. I 100% agree with Andy Keogh, a former Irish international soccer player, when he says that Bolt’s “shown a bit (of potential) but it’s a little bit of a kick in the teeth to the professionals that are in the league” (in News.com.au, 2018). Some of the players in the A-League are being paid significantly less than what the Mariners offered Bolt. From their perspective, it could be seen that a big-shot international athlete has come to trial another sport and after a few months, is being offered a substantial amount of money, despite not really having any skills. That would make me a bit unhappy as well. But, let’s be real – no way can the Mariners afford to offer Bolt a $3 million-dollar deal and he probably won’t take much less.
So, do the Mariners and the A-League have a chance of keeping him in the league?
Francis, K. (2018). Usain Bolt to the A-League: World’s fastest man set to join Central Coast Mariners. Retrieved from https://www.goal.com/en-au/news/usain-bolt-to-the-a-league-worlds-fastest-man-set-to-join/172yqbw7vj05u199t9kczjva94
Gatt, R. (2018). Can’t mask the Bolt effect. Retrieved from https://www.theaustralian.com.au/sport/football/cant-mask-the-bolt-effect/news-story/c8079b5feb4f22436535a3fe22e5e316
News.com.au. (2018). Former Irish international Andy Keogh slams Usain Bolt for having ‘a touch like a trampoline’. Retrieved from https://www.news.com.au/sport/football/former-irish-international-andy-keogh-slams-usain-bolt-for-having-a-touch-like-a-trampoline/news-story/e941319748e0aa999b156e8aa3b271b7
Matthey, D. (2018). Central Coast Mariners give update on Usain Bolt contract situation. Retrieved from https://www.news.com.au/sport/football/central-coast-mariners-give-update-on-usain-bolt-contract-situation/news-story/7d236be7ad15dce4097980311734c0a5