Central Coast Mariners wanted Manuka Oval games and 'Canberra green' strip in ACT

The future of soccer in Canberra is precariously placed as the ACT government asks the question: is it worth paying for A-League content in the capital?

The government is set announce on Monday the Australian Wallabies will play against Argentina in a rugby union Test at Canberra Stadium on September 16.

It follows confirmation the Australian rugby league team will play against New Zealand in Canberra on May 5 while government officials are also working to finalise top-level cricket content for the 2017-18 summer.

But Canberra's relationship with the A-League is on rocky ground and the future of men's soccer in the city is in danger of becoming a disaster.

The government is concerned about how many fans would turn up to watch the Central Coast Mariners play at Canberra Stadium if it entered into a long-term agreement.

The Mariners played two games in Canberra this year, taking a financial hit when just 5497 and 5072 watched their two respective games.

They are poor crowds. No one will argue that. But is it a reason to deny Canberra soccer fans access to the A-League.

The government made an almost blind $24 million commitment to the GWS Giants for a decade-long agreement to have them play AFL matches at Manuka Oval.

There was already an appetite for AFL in the city via past relationships with the North Melbourne Kangaroos and the Western Bulldogs.

But had the government made a one-year commitment instead of a long-term, would they have continued the relationship after an average of 8000 fans at the first eight games?

GWS crowds ballooned in Canberra last year, with 14,974 supporters watching their clash against Richmond. The support has steadily built in the first five years of the agreement.

Soccer isn't being afforded the same chance to build momentum, and part of the problem is Capital Football, the game's governing body in Canberra, have remained relatively silent in recent months.

Maybe there isn't a market for the A-League in Canberra. And there are major differences to aligning with a new team in the Giants compared to the already established Mariners.

However, a relationship with the Mariners appears the only way forward for the sport, given the Football Federation Australia has already said Canberra is not on its expansion radar.

The Mariners wanted to play games at Manuka Oval rather than Canberra Stadium to help them create a more intimate atmosphere.

They are also offering to swap their traditional yellow and blue strip for green for games in Canberra in a show of solidarity to Canberra United in the W-League.

The Mariners have started a pathway for Canberra soccer talent to pursue A-League ambitions, but for not it appears to be falling on deaf ears.

The government is weighing up whether investing in hosting the Socceroos every few years is a better way to spend money rather than targeting regular A-League content.

The problem with hosting the Socceroos is it comes with a massive pricetag and Canberra is usually only an option for lower-ranked teams, despite the success of the Asian Cup two years ago.

So is it worth forging a green machine Canberra link with the Mariners? Or will Australian soccer disappear from the capital's sporting calendar?

BRUMBIES FACE NERVOUS WAIT

A Super Rugby competition without the ACT Brumbies seems too crazy to be true, but it's a very real prospect if the ARU agrees to cut one of its teams.

The Brumbies, Melbourne Rebels and Western Force face an anxious wait was Australian, South African, New Zealand and Argentinian officials decide on the future of Super Rugby.

The Rugby Union Players Association has launched a defence, declaring cutting one of the five Australian teams would be a step backwards for the sport.

Brumbies players have voiced their concerns behind closed doors and are keeping one eye in what could develop into an off-field war.

The Brumbies are Australia's most successful club and has been a production line for some of the greatest players in Wallabies history.

But off-field dramas and financial trouble has put them on the chopping block with the privately-owned Rebels and the ARU-backed Force.

The ARU will compile a range of options next week before finding out if they'll have to deliver the silver bullet to one of the franchises.

What's one of the solutions being thrown around in some circles? The Melbourne Brumbies.

The story Central Coast Mariners wanted Manuka Oval games and 'Canberra green' strip in ACT first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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