March 1 (Reuters) - Australia's ailing top-flight football
league will be cut back to 10 teams next season after
administrators deemed North Queensland Fury's parlous financial
state could endanger the competition's wider development.
Fury, based in the tropical port city of Townsville, had
been under league administration for the past year after its
founding owner withdrew his support following a debut season in
which the club lost millions.
Football Federation Australia propped up Fury for the
A-League's 2010/11 season, which coincided with the country's
failed bid for the 2022 World Cup, but said the club had failed
to raise enough capital to justify its survival.
"The decision was determined after considering the financial
position of the club for season 2011/12 as too big of a
financial risk for FFA to undertake," the governing body said in
a statement on Tuesday.
"Despite the hard work put in, the target of A$1.5m ($1.5
million) of capital from the Retain the Fury campaign was not
met, with less than A$300,000 being pledged," FFA CEO Ben
"Whilst the club and the advisory board had attracted some
very encouraging sponsorship commitments, the projected loss to
run the club next season is still in our assessment in excess of
Local media estimated the FFA had ploughed between A$7-9
million into Fury during its two seasons in the A-League.
The club's management was unable to provide immediate
comment when contacted by Reuters.
Fury was dealt a hammer blow earlier this year when former
England striker and marquee signing Robbie Fowler left the club
to play for Western Australia-based Perth Glory.
The FFA has been roundly criticised for its administration
of the league and accused by local pundits and media of
expanding the fledgling competition too quickly.
Three teams were added in the past two seasons, with
Melbourne Heart's entry last year expanding the competition to
11 sides, even as average attendances have plummeted and a raft
of clubs remain heavily reliant on FFA hand-outs.
Administrators had planned to expand the league to 12 next
season with the addition of a second Sydney side, but scrapped
the bid due to financial concerns.
In September, the FFA had to intervene to save east-coast
club Newcastle United from crippling debt by switching the
franchise's license to a wealthy local mining magnate.
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