One week ago, the Federal Government announced an $8 million funding package for the development in Western Sydney of football. This included the announcement of a new A-League side for the area, which ended the speculation of whether Gold Coast United would be in the league next season.
Basketball Australia boss and former NSW premier Kristina Keneally wondered why the government was funding football in the area, and not her financially struggling sport. Some wondered why the FFA would want to take the risk of entering the area, especially after failing in their bid for a team in late 2010, when the Sydney Rovers consortium collapsed. Others thought the area would already be overpopulated with sports, considering the entry of the GWS Giants into the AFL at the start of the 2012 AFL Season.
Regardless, things were looking up for Football Federation Australia. Despite, not being that strong financially, the ten-tonne truck that was Clive Palmer had been let go, with the possibility that the Gold Coast youth team would remain, therefore not fully cutting off the region. The standard of football and the excitement of the A-League finals series had been high. The Asian Champions League had started and the three Australian teams had been performing reasonably well. This could well be a new era for football in Australia.
Then tragedy struck. Just like a Hollywood movie, Nathan Tinkler, the owner of Hunter Sports Group which owned the Newcastle Jets and a business partner of Clive Palmer, announced that he would be pulling out of funding the side and he would hand back his A-League license. Reasons were that he believed he paid too much for the license in the first place and the ongoing saga of compensation for the injury of former star player Jason Cullina.
Tinkler has always been a man of timing. Earlier in the season he sacked coach Branko Cullina, father of Jason, just before the first game of the season. He re-appointed former Jets coach Gary van Egmond, who would lead the Jets to victory over Melbourne Heart in the opening game of the season. You can only wonder what he’ll do on April 22, the day of the A-League Grand Final.
You can only think what this will not only do to football in the Hunter, but sport in general. Tinkler has just abandoned the football fans in Newcastle, some of which are known as the most passionate in the country. Who will they support now? Will they just abandon football altogether? What if things get tough with the NRL side the Newcastle Knights, which he also owns? Will he just ditch them.
This saga is still yet to be resolved with FFA CEO Ben Buckley coming out today and say that Tinkler had no right to relinquish the license, and that he has a contract until June 2020 to manage the club. Buckley also says that Frank Lowy and himself tried to contact Tinkler, but it was to no avail. I think it’s fair to say that this won’t be over so soon.
Will the FFA save the Newcastle Jets? If so it will stretch them right to the limit.