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Mariners owner Richard Peil. Mariners owner Richard Peil. Featured
28 May 2024 Posted by 


Building the WINNING 
culture at the Mariners
Club owner Richard Peil lifts the lid on the business strategies that have turned the Central Coast into a sporting juggernaut.
THE owner of the Central Coast Mariners – and the man who has helped transform the club into the biggest success story in Australian sport – is standing on the sideline at Gosford’s Industree Group Stadium, casting an eye over the squad in the countdown to their A-League Grand Final against Melbourne Victory.
“There are at least six players in this Mariners training session under 20 years of age. At times this season we’ve had up to eight club academy graduates in our top squad,” says Richard Peil, giving a rare insight into the business model that has brought unprecedented title success to the Central Coast.
“We have the youngest group in the League and the biggest Youth Academy in Australia. Our focus on youth development is fundamental to what we do at the Mariners.”
Peil, a businessman with expertise in athletic development and sports science, took over the Mariners 2 ½ years ago, at a time when their very existence was in jeopardy.
The founder of the multi-million-dollar gym franchise, Anytime Fitness, Peil first learned about the Mariners' dire situation after his son won a place at the club's Youth Academy.
He got to know some of the club's key figures, including former coach Nick Montgomery and CEO Shaun Mielekamp. The more he listened and learned, the more he realised the potential of the ailing club.
“The Mariners have something that makes them unique: they are the only A-League team representing a regional area and with no other professional sporting teams from other codes to compete against,” he says. 
“The Mariners have captured the heart of a community with 350,000 residents.”
Buoyed by this local support, Peil stepped in as owner with a very firm view as to the business model needed to make a football club sustainable and viable in Australia.
“Our model is to develop and promote youth and we go looking for very specific visa players (elite senior players) to complement our rising stars,” he explains.
“We look for players who have shown promise elsewhere but for whatever reason have not fulfilled their potential. We also consider the character of the players we are interested in and, if we feel they can fit into our culture, we offer them an opportunity here.
“If they are successful, these players become valuable on the transfer market and we need to be able to sell players to make our club more financially viable.
“I’m not going to be critical of the business models of other clubs in the A-League, but what we won’t do on the Central Coast is pay huge money for elite players. Our experience has shown us that players getting big money elsewhere are not necessarily any more effective than our visa players coming here looking for an opportunity to excel.”
Peil points to Brazilian star Mikael Doka as the perfect example of a player whose value has soared as a result of being part of a successful Mariners team. 
“There are a lot of things I don’t know, but after 37 years in business I do know a thing or two about building a successful business culture. and all I have tried to do here is bring these same successful cultural business strategies to the Mariners,” says Peil.
Clearly it is working, as evidenced by the phenomenal run of success at the club since Richard Peil took over.
The Mariners have created history by winning back-to-back A-League Grand Finals and securing a football title never before seen in Australian football.
In a 2023/24 season of perfection under coach Mark Jackson, the Mariners have been crowned A-League Premiers, Asian Confederation Cup Champions and A-League Champions.
For good measure, the Mariners also won the A-League Club Championship after both their men’s and women’s elite teams excelled.
A Grand Final win on Saturday night at the club’s spiritual home Industree Group Stadium in Gosford was the stuff of dreams for the club’s legion of fans.
An all-time record attendance of 21,379 packed every nook and cranny at Industree Group Stadium to witness the home Grand Final and thousands more watched on at a Central Coast Council-hosted Live Site across the road in Leagues Club Park.
There were unprecedented scenes of joy in Gosford and right along the Coast after the Mariners came from 0-1 down in injury time to win the Grand Final against Victory 3-1 after 30 minutes of extra time.
Even owner Peil admits he is surprised at what the Mariners have managed to achieve in such a short space of time. “It has just been the most extraordinary effort all round.”
Peil is lavish in his praise of the coaches who have led the Mariners to historic title success. “Monty (previous coach Nick Montgomery) did an incredible job and we hit the jackpot with Mark Jackson, who has really amplified the winning culture here. We also have great people assisting the coach, in our athletic department and in our back office. It has been very much a team effort.”  
In 2019, when the Central Coast Mariners were handed their third consecutive wooden spoon for finishing last in the A-League, it felt like the death-knell for the club.
Now they are flying high – a glowing example of how good business and cultural strategies can change the course of a sporting club.
“And we are not about to stop here,” adds Peil. “We will amplify what we are doing next season and beyond.
“Our women’s team made the semi-finals in our first season back in the Liberty A-League competition – and we want to help Emily Husband become the first female coach to win a premier football competition in Australia.”
Looking out beyond the famous palm trees at the southern end of Industree Group Stadium, Richard Peil gives a final summation of his plans for the future: 
“The Central Coast is a very special part of the world . . . the local people here love their region and look out for one another. We want to make sure we give them a football club they can always be proud of.”
Arthur Stanley is a senior journalist working across multiple media platforms in news and corporate communications.


Michael Walls
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