By: Jack Harbour, Gold Coast Bulletin
THE national sports competition lauded as the best gridiron league outside of America has folded before a ball is thrown.
The Bulletin has learnt the newly proposed National Gridiron League — pitched to include the players from Australia, New Zealand, the US and Canada, a team from the Gold Coast and games at Cbus Super Stadium — has been postponed to next year.
Some of the 400 players and coaches lured throughout the world to join the league had already relocated their families to Australia when NGL bosses pulled the pin.
The first game of the regular season was to be played on October 9 but players, the vast majority of whom had to travel from the US and Canada, were scheduled to arrive in Australia and begin training throughout August and September.
The man behind the competition — former Sunshine Coast amateur gridiron coach Marcin Soluch — went to ground this week.
However, a NGL spokesperson blamed a break down in negotiations with venues and visas as reasons behind the competition’s collapse.
It hopes to launch in 2017 instead.
“It’s going to be amazing when it comes back in 2017,” the spokesperson said.
“It’s pretty much the fact that there were issues with the venues and issues with visas.
“It’s a professional league and we have to make sure that we can provide the best possible outcome for all players and personnel that are involved. That’s the reason it was put back to 2017.”
Officially pitched in June, the NGL was to include eight teams from Queensland and NSW in a 14-week, 11-per-side regular season.
The Gold Coast Kings were to go head-to-head with the Brisbane Outlaws, North Coast Heat, New Castle Miners, Logan City Wolverines, Central Coast Cyclones, Wollongong Devils and Sydney Express.
The NGL signed an agreement with Stadiums Queensland for four games at the 52,500-seat Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane and three games at the 27,400-seat Cbus Super Stadium at Robina.
Mystery surrounds the sole director of the National Gridiron League, Polish-born Sunshine Coast businessman Marcin Soluch who outsourced most of the responsibility for running the competition to right man and former American college football coach Kirk Mastromatteo.
When asked in June how the NGL would fund the competition, Mr Mastromatteo would go no further than to point to “a private leveraged hedge fund that operates in the background”.
The State Government even endorsed the concept, with Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk touting the competition would be broadcast by Fox Sports.
“The NGL says games will be broadcast around Australia via Fox Sports, free-to-air television and online including into the US and Europe,” the Premier said.
“Meeting with the Denver Broncos yesterday, I know this new league will be closely watched by the biggest names in the NFL, and that means they’ll also be watching what Queensland has to offer.”
The Government is now likely to chase NGL organisers for a cancellation fee for pulling out of the deal struck for Suncorp and Cbus Super stadiums.
A Government insider said the league was unable to fulfil the promise to launch in 2016 due to internal financial issues.
Although not surprised the competition had been pulled, Gold Coast Stingrays president Craig James said it was disappointing to the small gridiron community in Australia.
“I feel for the people who made the move,” he said. “Even from across the ditch, they moved their families.
“There was a guy in Sydney who moved his family over to be ready for it. There were players ready to come (from the US).”
This post originally appeared on The Gold Coast Bulletin. Copyright 2016.