Central Coast Mariners owner Mike Charlesworth has officially announced his intention to sell his majority stake in the Gosford-based side, the club announced via statement on Tuesday.
There is currently no buyer lined up to take on the club, but it is understood that Charlesworth believes that the current landscape represents a favourable opportunity for individuals looking to invest and grow.
Charlesworth said in a statement: "After 10 years of involvement with the Mariners , I feel the time is right for me to now step aside and to look for a new investor to take on the ownership of the Club.
"With a host of young talented players having broken into our first team and with a new independently run A-League around the corner it's an exciting time for the club to grow and to now move forward under new ownership."
Charlesworth first acquired his stake in the Mariners in March of 2013, saving the club from financial ruin and ensuring it remained in Gosford. Under Graham Arnold, it then went on to win its first A-League title less than a month later.
When Charlesworth does eventually find a buyer, though, he will leave behind a club that -- though still possessing one of the most passionate fan bases within the A-League -- has fallen into a mire since that bright beginning to his tenure.
The 2019-20 campaign -- the club's first under former Matildas coach Alen Stajcic -- ended with the Mariners at the bottom of the A-League table for the fourth time in the past five seasons and Charlesworth has increasingly come under significant criticism around the league over a lack of investment.
Under Charlesworth's ownership, the club courted controversy when Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt briefly trialled with the club in 2018. Though the Olympic sprinting legend did appear in some preseason trial games for the Mariners, he left after a deal was unable to be reached over commercial terms.
According to ESPN sources, the announcement will not come as a shock to those in the Mariners camp; a belief existing at Central Coast Stadium that an official raising of the for sale banner by Charlesworth, who has reportedly repeatedly rejected offers to move the club away from Gosford in the past, was just a matter of when, not if, once COVID-19 hit the A-League.
Nonetheless, there is some light at the end of the tunnel for the 2012-13 A-League Champions.
Despite equalling an A-League record with their 11th straight defeat against Perth Glory in the first of their post-COVID-19 games, the Mariners ended their campaign on a three-game unbeaten run; 19-year-old Dylan Ruiz-Diaz making his presence felt with a brace as the Mariners downed Melbourne Victory 3-2 on Monday evening as 21-year-old Josh Nisbet also turned heads.
Charismatic 19-year-old prospect Alou Kuol broke through for his first A-League start against Newcastle Jets -- and stole the spotlight with his post-match interview -- while 18-year-old Lewis Miller logged over 1000 minutes for the club in 2019-20. Regular contributors Gianni Stensness (21) and Kye Rowles (22) are also amongst the talent assembled in Gosford.
Importantly for a club that, in previous years, has struggled to hold onto their best young talents, a significant bulk of the Mariners most talented young players are under contract for the coming seasons -- an area Stajcic has labelled as being key for their future prospects.
Samuel Silvera, 19, for instance, who trialled with MLS side LAFC during the 2019-20 season and represents the brightest prospect amongst the Mariners' stocks, is under contract until May 2022.
Elsewhere at the club, the women's side, which withdrew from the W-League in 2010 due to a lack of funding, currently competes in the NPL NSW competition.
The club has signalled that it hopes to use the upcoming 2023 Women's World Cup in Australia and New Zealand as a boost to return to the top-flight.