Billionaire owner Nathan Tinkler has apologised to Newcastle Jets fans, players and staff for plans to walk away from the club but insists the A-League is doomed to fail.
Tinkler’s Hunter Sports Group rocked the competition on Tuesday by announcing it would hand back its A-League licence for the Jets due to “irreconcilable” differences with Football Federation Australia.
The matter appears headed for an expansive court battle, with FFA insisting HSG has no legal grounds to hand back a licence it holds until 2020.
Tinkler says he feels for those involved with the club but insists he had no choice after being “fobbed off” by FFA over several issues, including why the club was charged a reported $5 million to acquire the team’s licence.
“I feel as though we have let them (fans, players and staff) down and I apologise for this,” Tinkler told News Ltd on Thursday.
“However we were left with no choice by the FFA administration, which continues not to answer some pretty simple questions.
“We ran out of patience after months of being fobbed off by the FFA administration.
“They have not communicated the answers we have been seeking in regard to why we were charged a licence fee and commissions were paid, when other clubs were not charged a cent.”
FFA have denied HSG were unfairly charged to acquire the team’s licence, saying the fees were fair, given the club was already up and running, and decided upon after a negotiation process.
But Tinkler, who also owns the Newcastle Knights NRL team, also has serious issues with the game’s administration and believes the A-League is destined to fail in Australia.
“Rugby League is an established product, which evolved through the Super League war to become the outstanding product it is today,” Tinkler said.
“Soccer has an ownership model of established losses, a failure by the FFA to engage with communities and no sound commercial basis for its business relationships.
“These have combined to guarantee the A-League’s failure in Australia.
“While the A-League is funded by the club’s owners, they receive no input into the direction or governance of the game in Australia or the competition.
“That is a very different proposition to the NRL.
“A-League owners are 100 per cent accountable with absolutely no input into their own competition.
“It must change before more clubs are lost.”
Tinker’s comments came despite FFA’s recent formation of the joint A-League Strategic Committee which will allow club owners to have a greater input in the governance of the game.
FFA is reportedly preparing a lawsuit against HSG and could seek damages of more than $50 million, in a pursuit that could enjoin HSG, the Jets, the Knights and both Tinkler and HSG chief executive Troy Palmer.
Despite the possibility of the Knights becoming involved in the battle, Tinkler reassured his full commitment to the NRL club.
“We have full confidence in the current administration of the game (NRL), unlike the FFA,” he said.