Are The Knights Immune From The Whims Of Their New Owner?

Nathan Tinkler formed Hunter Sports Group with the long term goal, according to him, of building a sporting legacy for the Newcastle and greater Hunter region.

His first move came 18 months ago when he purchased the Newcastle Jets Soccer club and saved them from folding. Last year though, he claimed his biggest prize when he gained control of the Newcastle Knights Rugby League club, and he purchased them for basically nothing.

From afar it looked like Tinkler really did have a grand plan. Lets face it, owning the Knights, the Jets and the rights to the newly upgraded stadium at Newcastle was a brilliant base for Hunter Sports Group to work off. There was talk they would look to start an NBL Basketball team and even a 20/20 Big Bash League Cricket team.

As all of this was going on though, there were people quietly warning about Tinkler’s lack of patience when it come to his horse racing interests. Apparently, and I don’t know if this is true, he was pretty quick to let people go if he felt he wasn’t getting results out of them.

Not the worst thing in the world, but possible cause for concern.

Not too long ago Tinkler become away that he had purchased the A League licence for the Newcastle Jets at a much higher price than other owners has purchased their licences for. Tinkler had paid $5 million dollars.

Apparently, he was filthy about this. He felt ripped off. From that point on, it was all down hill, and the relationship between Hunter Sports Group and the Football Federation of Australia (Soccer’s governing body) went south faster the share price of Kodak when digital camera’s came out!

It all come to a head today when, on a whim, the Hunter Sports Group announced that they were “handing in” their A League licence and the Newcastle Jets were effectively dead.

I personally think this is one of the most underhanded, despicable moves in Australian sporting history. To take over the club just 18 months ago and then shut them down is disgraceful. To leave the A League with 9 teams, just a week after Gold Coast United were shut down and the FFA scrambled to get a 10th team in its Western Sydney side, it was a calculated move with massive ramifications for Soccer in Australia.

Fans of the Newcastle Jets have been treated like rubbish. Many of these people are also Knights fans. The staff at the Jets, including players, now have to search for new jobs. This was all so under handed…

The worst part was, the Hunter Sports Group came out and dared to suggest they were not abandoning Soccer. They claimed they would pour $1 million a year into Soccer in the Hunter region, what an absolute joke! It was a pathetic, transparent attempt to “PR” this petty move in shutting down the Jets.

The Hunter Sports Group then had to come out and say that the Newcastle Knights are under no threat of falling to the same fate.

Really? Why should we believe that?

If Nathan Tinkler is willing to shut down the Jets over a $5 million licencing fee and the financial structure of the A League, what is to say he wouldn’t walk away from the Knights if all the money he has poured into them doesn’t amount to Premiership glory?

The Knights would land on their feet a little easier that the Jets in that, there’s simply more money in Rugby League, a bigger television deal and the ARLC simply wouldn’t allow the Knights to go belly up. They couldn’t afford to.

I would bet money that if Tinkler did walk away from the Knights that he would still retain the management rights to Newcastle Stadium, a very lucrative asset considering it is the biggest sporting venue between Sydney and the Gold Coast.

Imagine if the NRL ever had to say, level salary cap penalties against the Knights. What chance than that Tinkler decides to walk away from the Knights, trying to stick it to the NRL?

This is the danger of private ownership. You just don’t have any guarantees. Stability only goes as far as one personals health, bank balance and personality.

In that sense it shows what incredible owners Russell Crowe and Peter Holmes à Court.

Committed, steady, unwavering. A good owner gets his club running right, reaches into his back pocked only occasionally, uses his influence sparingly, and keeps out of the way. They leave the people they employ to do their job. Above all else, they need to honestly love the club they own, because sporting teams, especially NRL clubs, aren’t set up to make money.

You don’t want an owner that thinks the way to fix problems is to throw money at it. You don’t want someone that looks to micromanage everything. You don’t want someone that is surrounded by yes men, and who get’s rid of anyone that dares to tell them the sun doesn’t shine out of their arse.

At the start of the A League season Tinkler sacked the clubs coach and marque player. At the end of the season, he walked away from the club completely and handed in his A League licence.

Would you want that bloke owning your NRL team?

I feel really sorry for Newcastle Jets fans. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to wake up one day and find a club you invest your time, money and emotions into is shut down as if someone turned off a light switch. I hope something can be done so that the Jets are playing in the upcoming A League season.

I think this is a despicable act of sporting treachery. I wouldn’t want the people that did this to Jets fans anywhere near my NRL club.

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