A-LEAGUE TURMOIL

The rich man is taking his bat and ball and going home

Nathan Tinkler
Nathan Tinkler at the races

Mining magnate Nathan Tinkler has attempted to pull the rug from under the Newcastle Jets in a display of petulance. The owner of the Jets had a representative host a depressing press conference where the Hunter Sports Group (owned by Tinkler) declared, they were handing back their owner’s license due to differences in opinion on how the game should be run.

HSG chief executive Troy Palmer stated “. . . propping up their [FFA] decisions that we don’t agree with is not what we think is best for Newcastle.” With true billionaire contempt it seems the rich man is taking his bat and ball and going home. The tamper tantrum stems from two major issues: the $5 million license acquisition fee paid by Tinkler and the Jason Culina insurance incident. Tinkler has good reason to be bitter about the acquisition fee. The $5 million that he paid is well over the money paid by others and Jason Culina was bought as a marquee player but amazingly the player wasn’t insured as the FFA has a different rule for marquee players.

So Tinkler has reason to be angry and to want answers however, trying to hand back the license is a little irresponsible. The Jets attracted the third highest average crowd figures for 2011/12, and manager Gary Van Egmond gave up his post at the Australian Institute of Sport for the job at the Jets. Tinkler has metaphorically said to the fans “to hell with you”, he has metaphorically said to Van Egmond “who cares about your family and any other bills you have to pay” and the same goes for all the players.

On investigation into Tinkler’s history we see some consistent patterns of this kind of behaviour. In November 2011 he finally ended his dispute with horse trainer Anthony Cummings. Cummings was one of a long line of horse trainers who parted ways with Tinkler. The list includes Jason Coyle, Patrick Payne, Tony Noonan and Mick Price. But it’s Tinkler’s timing which really proves his class (sarcasm). Hours after the launch of the 2011/12 A League season Tinkler ruthlessly sacked then manager, Branko Culina, who had been on hand for the launch media event. Tinkler sacked Culina for the debacle that surrounded the signing of injured marquee player Jason Culina (his son). And now on the day of the A League awards night Tinkler prods his chief executive officer into the fray to tell the world he doesn’t want his ‘soccer toy’ anymore. Unfortunately for Tinkler he signed a ten year ownership contract and the FFA are ready for court action. By the afternoon of HSG’s announcement yesterday, the ‘cut and run’ group were issued papers from the FFA reminding of their legal commitments to the Newcastle Jets for another eight years.

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