Tinkler pulls plug on Jets

  • April 10, 2012

The owners of Newcastle Jets have returned their A-League licence to Football Federation Australia, leaving the club without a backer for the 2012/13 season.

Billionaire Nathan Tinkler's company, Hunter Sports Group, who had invested almost Aus$12 million in the club since stepping in to save it 18 months ago, announced the news at a press conference on Monday.

The company said they had lost confidence in FFA and were unable to resolve a variety of issues with the governing body.

Among those are the Aus$5 million acquisition fee for the club, the saga over the non-insurance of Jason Culina and combined club losses of Aus$27 million for the 2012 financial year, with forecasts of a similar performance next year.

Hunter Sports Group chief executive Troy Palmer said the decision had been forced upon the organisation.

"As a keen Jets and football fan this has been a tough decision and I am aware the impact this will have on members, players, coaches, fans and the entire football community,'' Palmer said.

"I am particularly saddened for members and supporters who have embraced our community model, which has been accepted in so many areas as a successful and unique way to engage the entire community and build the A-League brand.

"It is also frustrating to have invested so much time, energy and money to save the Jets for the community at short notice and then continually hit road blocks at the FFA.

"It should never be forgotten that when we stepped in to save the club it was insolvent, there were only 500 members, diminishing crowds, minimal community engagement, no merchandise programme and negligible corporate support.

"During the 2011/12 season we believe we turned this around to be seen as leaders in all these areas.

"Unfortunately, having lost confidence in the FFA management and its ability to find a resolution, it is clear we have no other option.''

FFA chief executive Ben Buckley claimed the Jets have no right to return their A-League licence.

Buckley said there were no grounds for the move as Hunter Sports Group (HSG) are tied into a club participation agreement until June 30, 2020.

"FFA has held countless hours of discussions with HSG on a wide range of issues affecting the club and the A-League,'' he said.

"The Jets know very well that the Jason Culina matter is subject to arbitration before an independent panel of arbitrators in accordance with the grievance procedure and that a hearing is scheduled.

"The issues surrounding the operating model of the league and its clubs were addressed just a fortnight ago when all clubs were shown a road map towards sustainability.

"In addition, the clubs will have a greater say through the Joint A-League Strategic Committee, which has equal FFA and club representation.

"The FFA chairman Frank Lowy and I have made numerous offers to meet in person with Nathan Tinkler. Just two weeks ago a scheduled meeting was cancelled by HSG at short notice.

"However, none of this provides a justification for today's announcement by HSG or provides any grounds for the Newcastle Jets to relinquish their licence.''

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