Bolt show to kick-off with a Big Bash-style bang
USAIN Bolt is set to headline a Big Bash-style extravaganza at Central Coast Stadium on Friday night - on the proviso it doesn't hurt his push for a $3 million A-League contract.
As Bolt prepares to make his football debut on Australian soil, the Mariners are putting the final touches to a blockbuster event involving fireworks, dancers, a "Bolt Bay", a DJ, Mariners cannon, $50 family tickets, and the distribution of 100,000 Bolt masks.
There were early discussions about having Mariners players - and potentially Bolt - mic'd up for the match against a team of the Coast's strongest park footballers.
However, that idea was quickly knocked on the head, given the efforts required by Bolt to make the squad for 2018-19.
If everything goes as expected in training this week, the world's fastest man will play up to 15 minutes, most likely at left wing.
Mariners' management cannot even guess what crowd the Bolt show will attract.
The match normally would be played on the club's training ground at Lisarow. Thanks to the "Bolt effect", the trial has shifted to the 20,000-seat Central Coast Stadium.
Fox Sports will broadcast the event live, and Football Federation Australia is looking to sell the vision to a global audience.
Despite his limited football experience, Bolt has generated more interest for the A-League than Juventus legend Alessandro Del Piero did in 2012.
"So this isn't simply a game, it's an event," Mariners chief executive Shaun Mielekamp said on Monday. "We're expecting an atmosphere similar to that of a Big Bash game, an experience that's really something out of the box.
"I know there's football traditionalists out there who don't like it, but it was exactly the same when Twenty20 cricket arrived. It couldn't have been further from what traditionalists wanted.
"But that's exactly the sort of space we're wanting to play in with this.
"Usain Bolt's journey is a wonderful one … and now we want to bring people along on that ride."
Media monitoring service Isentia said Bolt's football story had already reached over 300 million people while generating $16 million in free publicity for the Gosford club.
"It's unprecedented," Isentia chief commercial officer Sean Smith said on Monday.
"The media coverage we're seeing is unrivalled, even when compared with the signings of other superstars like Del Piero. Bolt is bringing Australian football to media consumers that would otherwise not be football fans"
Mielekamp said the figures were "mind-blowing".
"It's brilliant for both the Mariners and the Central Coast generally because it means we've been put right in the spotlight," he said.
As part of Friday night's broadcast, Fox Sports is set to use a unique "revolving door" commentary team headed by Matt Shirvington.
The former Olympic sprinter will be joined throughout the broadcast by a host of different voices, including Robbie Slater, Mark Bosnich and Archie Thompson, while also crossing live to Mariners coach Mike Mulvey and incoming Sport Director Mike Phelan, who spent five years at Manchester United as the right-hand man of Sir Alex Ferguson.
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