Friday, April 20, 2012
No compromise in A-League's Jets saga
By Liam FitzGibbon
The Newcastle Jets A-League saga appears certain to head to court after the battle between Nathan Tinkler and Football Federation Australia turned even uglier on Friday.Hopes of a compromise between the warring parties were shattered on another dramatic day, with Tinkler's Hunter Sports saying it would follow through with its decision to return the club's licence, claiming compromise talks with FFA had broken down.HSG claimed FFA had rejected its compromise proposal and would "welcome and look forward to any forthcoming legal action".FFA hit back strongly with its own statement several hours later, saying no formal negotiations had taken place and that it had not seen, let alone reject, HSG's proposal.The contradictory and confusing developments came as more than a thousand Jets fans gathered for a rally at Hunter Stadium to plead for the club's survival.While the events came as a further blow to hopes a team in the city will remain in the A-League, FFA hinted it could be prepared to step in and save the club, or line up new owners."The region is too steeped in football tradition and passion not to be represented in the A-League," its statement said.FFA officials were privately furious over Friday's developments, having felt a compromise was still possible.But it now appears likely FFA will attempt to sue Tinkler's group for us much as $50 million in damages for breach of contract.HSG released a statement early on Friday afternoon saying it had offered a peace deal which meant it could still keep the licence it is meant to hold until 2020.The terms of the deal included FFA reviewing a reported $4.5 million fee in the acquisition of the club's licence and settling the ongoing Jason Culina insurance matter immediately.HSG claimed it would also invest $250,000 on behalf of all clubs and the FFA to create an independent taskforce to make recommendations on improving the sustainability and transparency of the A-League.HSG claimed the proposals were immediately rejected by FFA chief executive Ben Buckley but FFA responded strongly refuted that claim.The FFA said it had not received a formal proposal from HSG, nor had it been offered a chance to meet face-to-face over the issues.Buckley said: "FFA reaffirms its position that it does not accept that HSG has the right to return the A-League licence."FFA said it would not interfere with the Culina matter because it was being heard by an independent arbitrator and said there was "no need" for a $250,000 external review.And it claimed it had offered to enter formal negotiations over the licence fee "but HSG has repeatedly declined to sit down around the table".Friday's event offered little clarity to Jets' players and staff, who remain in limbo over their futures.Players' association chief Brendan Schwab told AAP earlier on Friday that Jets players needed to know exactly where they stood as a matter of urgency."We fear that if the uncertainty continues then come next week when the grand final has been played and quite a number of the coaching appointments have been resolved, it will become very difficult for the Jets players to sit tight," he said.