Blame for Newcastle debacle lies with both parties
No doubt, by now, you’ve heard the news out of Newcastle that the Hunter Sports Group, headed up by mining magnate Nathan Tinkler, have handed back their A-League licence to the FFA effective immediately. And no doubt, by now, you’ve heard the FFA state that the Hunter Sports Group are breaching their club participation agreement by doing so. And no doubt, by now, you’ve heard about the issues the Hunter Sports Group have with the FFA that led to this point. In particular, their concern over the stability and sustainability of the A-League club financial model.
Now, the issues surrounding the A-League’s financial model are by the by, and the fact that Buckley and the FFA have acknowledged, in consultation with the ownerships of all A-League clubs, that it needs revising and improving is a positive step. Because it’s pretty clear that with the failings of private ownership in both North Queensland and Gold Coast, as well as the fact that only 1 of the original 8 clubs (Melbourne Victory) is still owned by the original investors, that the model is far from perfect.
However, the issue in Newcastle is not about the model or the ownership of Nathan Tinkler’s Hunter Sports Group. In fact, even raising the financial model as an issue, despite being involved in discussions to improve and strengthen it, is just plain odd. The issue, however, is that the FFA and Hunter Sports Group, of which both are equal parts to blame, have let the situation progress to this point. The point where one party is driven to a point of exasperation where they are prepared to pull the plug on their A-League franchise.
As stated in their original press release, one of the main sticking points that the Hunter Sports Group had with the FFA was that of the acquisition and licensing fee when they took over the club in October 2010. Regardless of whether or not they had reason to feel aggrieved over this fee, the issue should’ve been dealt with when it came to a head. And by dealt with, I don’t mean the FFA simply coming out in the media and trying to differentiate between a licence fee and an acquisition fee. That’s not dealing with the issue! And it was mid-February when Clive Palmer let slip on SBS’s The World Game that Tinkler’s acquisition and licencing fee far exceeded that of his own. So, what has been happening since then between the FFA and Nathan Tinkler that has allowed this issue to balloon into a monster?
The second notable issue that the Hunter Sports Group have with the FFA, surrounding the Jason Culina insurance matter, has been ongoing since before the start of the current A-League season. And, again, it’s not important who is in the right and who is in the wrong. What is important is that this should’ve been resolved months ago.
Instead, what we have now is a situation where the ownership of a club feel aggrieved on two issues that could’ve been taken care of and resolved some time ago. And to a point where the ownership of the club feel so disallusioned that the only course of action is to hand back their licence and abandon their A-League team.
And it’s not as if the Jets are a struggling team like Gold Coast and North Queensland were, and that relinquishing the licence was purely a financial decision. Off the park, the Jets had the third highest crowd average this season (12,117), and over 10,000 passionate, signed-up members. The unfortunate thing is it’s those 10,000 members who are the big losers in all of this. Because, essentially, they are the innocent third party in a power play between two feuding organisations that never needed to happen. And, to be fair, the fans and members don’t really care who is in the right and who is in the wrong on these issues. What they care about is being able to go out and support their team as they run out onto the park each weekend. And judging by the reaction on social media from Jets fans, they really do care!
As the old saying goes, communication is a two-way street. The Hunter Sports Group claim they tried to organise meetings to resolve these issues with the FFA but were fobbed off. The FFA say they tried to organise meetings to resolve these issues but in fact they were fobbed off.
It doesn’t really matter who is or who you believe is telling the truth.
The unfortunate result is that this whole situation just reeks of two kids fighting over the rules of a simple game, only for one kid to take his bat and ball and go home when he doesn’t get his way. Except, in this case, that feud is being played out in the national media. When, realistically, it would’ve been much simpler and cleaner to negotiate and work together to form the rules at the start of the game, so everyone can understand and accept them.
But that didn’t happen.
And the fact is that these issues need to be addressed, egos need to be cast aside, and both parties need to work together to resolve the issues at hand. For the good of the Newcastle Jets, and for the good of the game in this country!