Football Federation Australia (FFA) have today announced the termination of the licence held by Newcastle Jets Football Operations Pty Ltd (Newcastle Jets FC) and will begin a search for a new suitor to keep a club in the Newcastle area, after unpaid wages and increasing debts forced owner Nathan Tinkler to put the club into voluntary administration just hours earlier.
Failure to pay player and staff wages that were due last Friday caused the governing body to pressure Tinkler with notice that the licence would be revoked should wages not be paid by 4:00 PM today (Australian Eastern Standard Time).
“FFA has today sent correspondence to the Newcastle Jets in relation to the non-payment of players and staff,” an FFA spokesperson told News Corp yesterday in regards to their notice. “This situation needs to be resolved urgently and the club management understands that meeting basic obligations is imperative. FFA is preparing to take steps to address this matter.”
Further debts incrued by the club included unpaid superannuation to current and past staff of up to three years and outstanding facility rental fees, which have raised the due amount for Tinkler and the club to AU$2.7 million.
Funds provided to each club by the FFA to pay player salaries had also been siezed by the Australian Tax Office as the government department tries to reclaim unpaid taxes by Tinkler, while the former mining magnate had refused to directly pay wages.
“I have been in negotiations with the FFA over the last few days,” said Tinkler, “and wasn’t able to get them to guarantee the licence. And I haven’t been willing to pay wages unless they guaranteed that so I have put the club into administration just now.”
Tinkler had confirmed the club had received a takeover offer from Scottish Premier League side Dundee United of around AU$5 million and was trying to make a quick deal before the licence was relinquished.
“That offer [from Dundee United] is well in excess of the debts of the club and I have asked the administrator to get that sale done and that will see everyone get paid. Then I can move on.”
The FFA has released a scathing statement saying that the voluntary administration was a breach of A-League licence conditions.
“FFA has taken this action to protect the interests of the football community in Newcastle and the Hunter Valley,” said FFA CEO David Gallop in the statement, “and to safeguard the image and reputation of the A-League and its member clubs.
“[Hunter Sports Group] (the company of which the club was a subsidiary) has behaved in a deplorable way towards the players and staff of the club in failing to meet basic obligations to pay wages. Anyone who takes control of a sporting club has an obligation to respect the people and the traditions of that club.
“HSG has failed miserably in this regard.”
Gallop also said the FFA would listen to all stakeholders in the region and continue talks with potential suitors, which is likely to include Dundee United and local consortiums.
It is not the first drama for the club this season, with multiple cases of unpaid wages and the departure of several key players during the Asian Cup break, as the Jets went on to finish at the bottom of the A-League table.