The A-League has a huge battle on its hands if it's to come out of this COVID-19 pandemic with all current 11 clubs still intact. The biggest question though is whether the latest club, Campbelltown based Macarthur FC, will actually make the start line.
The Bulls had already suffered their fair share of setbacks prior to this current pandemic, but now, things are even harder. The club is due to pay its next licence fee payment of around $3.5 million at the end of June, which now may be unlikely given the state of the entire A-League is in flux.
All A-League clubs are facing a precarious sponsorship situation due to uncertainty over the COVID-19 crisis, but Macarthur could be particularly hard-hit in the wake of their ownership change late last month.
Things are even more challenging now due to the major financial crisis that has hit the world of football as a result of COVID-19.
The Bulls declined to comment recently when asked if sponsors had walked away after their recent ownership change and if they were on track to meet their next payment to the games national governing body. FFA have not responded to requests for information about the new club's financial position.
The Bulls have parted ways with three major club figures in the past month-and-a-half, with football director Ken Stead, executive chairman Rabieh Krayem and owner Lang Walker all leaving key positions at the club.
General manager Neil Favager’s future at the club is also uncertain. Stead and Favager are apparently involved in a legal battle with the new owners. Both declined to comment when contacted.
Walker still has a sponsorship arrangement for five years but the sale of his 50% ownership share went to the unknown duo of Michael Gerace and Roy Mammone. Gerace owns Sydney Trucks and Machinery, while Mammone is a south-west Sydney property developer.
Gino Marra was appointed chairman after Krayem’s departure. Former Sydney United boss Sam Krslovic is reportedly running the club with Marra.
Former chief executive Archie Fraser left last year after only four months at the club.
The Bulls won a license to the A-League after impressing key figures at FFA with a multitude of promises. The club's origins stemmed from the merging of two bids during the FFA’s expansion process in 2018, United for Macarthur and South West Sydney FC.
With FFA’s encouragement, the two joined forces in August 2018 to create the Macarthur South West United Football Club, which led to the formation of the Macarthur FC Bulls.
The change in personnel at the club has led many to believe that there is now friction between the two merged entities.
The club is part of a major population growth corridor in Sydney and was seen as a genuine rival to the Western Sydney Wanderers.
Macarthur FC’s initially positive response from the local community is also beginning to go cold, with the 2,000 foundation members the club has signed not yet receiving their member packs due to significant delays due to the coronavirus outbreak.
A number of these members have commented on the club’s Facebook page about their disappointment at not having a say in the appointment of any board members. Part of the club’s selling point was that members will have a say in electing at least two of the club’s seven board members.
The club’s relationship with Campbelltown council has also reportedly turned with the local governing body scaling back its partnership with the club, however, the Bulls still have a $1 a season tenure at Campbelltown Stadium.
The Bulls also have access to facilities at Western Sydney University through the proposed $25 million Campbelltown Sports and Health Centre of Excellence.
It was thought the facilities were purpose-built, but a spokesperson for Western Sydney University confirmed the facilities weren’t built specifically for the Bulls.
The Bulls' uncertainty puts a lot of pressure on their relationship with Wisdom Homes - originally reported to be the largest sponsorship deal in A-League history at $15 million - but coming from a small to medium enterprise operating out of Camden, a suburb of Campbelltown.
Wisdom Homes confirmed at the start of the month their sponsorship was still going ahead despite the uncertainty surrounding the club. They were contacted this week to verify if their position had changed considering the current COVID-19 crisis, however they didn’t return calls.
A major initiative of the club was the partnership with indigenous player academy, the Charles Perkins Soccer Academy. Frank Farina was appointed as the director of this academy last year but there has been little public communication from the academy. They have yet to sign a player.
They had a meeting set for 30 March but COVID-19 meant it didn’t happen.
On the field, the club has only signed one player in injury-prone former Socceroo Tommy Oar. There is also uncertainty around whether Ante Milicic will be available considering the Matildas' Tokyo 2020 campaign has been extended a year.
In the current climate it may be hard for the club - or any A-League club - to attract high-quality players who can make an impact straight away.
All of which creates many hanging issues over the club that they currently appear unwilling, or perhaps unable, to answer.