A-League in turmoil after Jets owners try to quit

BY foxsports • April 10, 2012

Australia's A-League plunged deeper into turmoil Tuesday after Football Federation Australia refused to allow the owner of the Newcastle Jets to relinquish the club's license.

The Hunter Sports Group, owned by mining magnate Nathan Tinkler, announced that it was handing back its A-League license due to irreconcilable differences with the FFA. The announcement led to speculation that the A-League might be reduced to nine teams less than a week after the FFA announced it was bankrolling a new club in western Sydney to fill the void created when it revoked the A-League license for Gold Coast United.

But the FFA countered later Tuesday by saying Tinkler's group was legally bound by a club participation agreement that doesn't expire until 2020.

''They do not have a right to hand a license back and we expect them to fully commit and fully honor that contract,'' FFA chief executive Ben Buckley said. ''A club cannot just hand back a license. FFA also expects that the Jets will continue to honor the playing contracts in place with each of their players.''

Buckley acknowledged there had been issues between the Hunter Sports Group and the FFA.

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

HSG chief executive Troy Palmer said the decision to quit the league was ''forced upon the HSG through an irrevocable breakdown in confidence of the current FFA management and its refusal to provide clear and transparent answers about the Jets acquisition fee and a variety of other issues.''

Tinkler agreed to a 10-year deal in 2010 to run the club after the FFA had stripped former owner Con Constantine of the license.

The Hunter Sports Group, which also owns the Newcastle Knights in the National Rugby League, said it had invested almost $12 million in the Jets since taking it over at short notice 18 months ago. One of the main areas of contention had been the $5 million acquisition fee imposed by the FFA.

''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,'' Palmer said.

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