The Roar
The Roar


'Would be a tragedy': Can the Jets find a new owner, or are they about to spiral out of the A-League?

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19th March, 2024
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With news breaking of over 75,000 Tasmanians registering as foundational members of the AFL expansion club set to begin play in the 2028 season, the Newcastle Jets are on the brink of A-League extinction.

The contrast is a clear representation of just where the two sports sit in terms of support, growth and viability in the current Australian sporting context and as much as inter-code rivalry might encourage bickering and debate between fans, the numbers are irrefutable.

Those numbers extend far further than those willing to buy yearly memberships. The Jets are currently owned by a consortium that is funded by four opposition A-League clubs and by all reports, in a financial mess.

Former owners of the team from the Hunter did little to improve the chances of Newcastle adding to the one A-League Championship won in 2007/08.

Newcastle Jets fans

(AAP Image/Darren Pateman)

Nathan Tinkler’s Hunter Sports Group promised the world and delivered little; its license was eventually revoked in May of 2015 after the depths of the financial challenges faced by the group saw FFA wisely pull the pin.

The Ledman Group took over in June 2016, backed by the wealth of an LED signage manufacturer based in China. Soon after, then coach Scott Miller was sacked, as the Jets suffered miserably on the pitch across multiple seasons, winning two wooden spoons in the space of three campaigns; becoming the brunt of many an A-League joke from opposition fans.

The arrival of championship-winning coach Ernie Merrick provided the reversal of fortune required, yet the mighty performances of the 2017/18 season and a grand final appearance were to be short-lived.


Merrick was dismissed briskly and after something of an improvement under new manager Carl Robinson, his departure to Western Sydney in October of 2021 had Newcastle soon struggling again on the field.

It followed the removal of the club’s license in January of 2021, with COVID still circling and an ever-growing frustration in fans and the governing body growing around the lack of financial investment made by owner Martin Lee.

That sequence of events delivered the club to where it currently exists. Owned by enemies, supported by an ever-shrinking active fan base and reportedly in need of an owner in the immediate term lest they face expulsion from the competition.

Robert Stanton, coach of the Jets looks on against Perth

Newcastle Jets coach Robert Stanton. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Rumours are rampaging that the entry of Auckland FC into the A-League’s Men’s competition next season will be at the expense of a foundation club that simply has never been able to create a stable foundation on which to build a viable future.

Italian businessman Danilo Iervolino appeared to be a potential Jets’ saviour early in 2024. With ambitions to invest in football clubs abroad as his play things to satisfy a passionate love of the game, Newcastle loomed as a perfect fit; certain to be bought at a fair price and once funded appropriately, capable of bringing back a supporter base that showed its potential size and value during the clubs’ run to the grand final in 2017/18.


Instead, negotiations have reportedly stalled, with the APL rumoured to be unwilling to provide some details that the investor would like to have at hand before signing on the bottom line.

Who knows the level of truth behind the stories doing the rounds as we speak. What I do know, is that the A-League needs Danilo Iervolino far more than he needs the A-League.

Considering the due diligence he will undoubtedly do, I’d argue it might be best for him to run for the hills, rather than think his investment in the club is going to bring him anything but pain.

That is far from a shot at the people of Newcastle, it is just a few hours inland from there that I am purchasing a small farm on which to escape the rat race of Sydney and live with my wife in early retirement.

The area is blessed with landscape, great people, excellent beaches, a well-credentialed university and some of the best wine one could ever sample.

Yet as football teams go, the Hunter has proven to be something of a disaster for the A-League over the last decade or so.


If the Jets fail to reel in a cashed-up owner with good intentions to rebuild the club, it does seem likely the APL would consider severing the relationship.

Personally, I feel it would be a tragedy for the A-League, yet an understandable one considering the drain the club has become on the powers at be.

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Fingers crossed for a saviour, yet we are entering the eleventh hour and things look very grim.