THAT’S the trouble with billionaires. When the toys get thrown out of the cot, they tend to be expensive ones.
And if for some inexplicable reason Football Federation Australia executives had been oblivious to Nathan Tinkler’s unpredictable reputation, they should now be well aware of it after what seems to me like an Olympic-class dummy-spit.
Just ask Branko and Jason Culina, Rob Tew and Steve Burraston, or any number of horse trainers to receive their marching orders from the stud dubbed ‘‘Pat’n’sack Farm’’.
Now, just 18 months after stepping in to save the Newcastle Jets from extinction, Tinkler has said he will hand back his FFA licence, possibly leaving the town without a team – yet again – and the A-League competition in an apparently terminal tailspin.
Unless, of course, this is just a stunt designed to force the FFA back to the negotiating table.
The Novocastrian faithful have been quick to sink the slipper into the self-made tycoon, which is hardly surprising.
Nobody likes an Indian giver.
But the question that has to be asked is why the FFA allowed relationships to sour to this point.
Wind back the clock to October 2010 and it was the FFA which went to Tinkler, cap in hand, hoping he could do them a massive favour.
The Jets’ former owner, Con Constantine, was unable to pay his players. The club was about to fold.
Could Tinkler help? Did he have a lazy few million he didn’t mind flushing down the S-bend?
No problem, the big fella replied. Despite admitting he was no great fan of the world game, he told the Newcastle Herald at the time it was ‘‘an act of community’’.
And Tinkler has never been one for half-measures.
Within months the Jets brought superstar David Beckham to town, slashed ticket prices, signed the A-League’s most respected player, Jason Culina, and expressed interest in the likes of Manchester United stars Michael Owen and Paul Scholes.
It all seemed too good to be true.
In hindsight, perhaps it was.
Within a year, alarm bells were ringing. Loudly.
Tinkler sacked head coach Branko Culina – on the day of the A-League season launch no less – for reasons still unexplained.
He attempted to have the chronically injured Jason Culina’s contract ‘‘set aside’’.
But his real fury was focused on the FFA.
First came the revelation that the Jason Culina fiasco could have been avoided if FFA had ensured the Socceroo was appropriately insured.
Then came confirmation that Tinkler had apparently paid over the odds for his franchise licence.
Tinkler was clearly of the belief that the same blokes who had appealed to him for help had taken advantage of his generosity.
Given that by this stage Tinkler had already acquired the Knights, and owned hundreds of racehorses, FFA should have realised they were playing with fire.
Soccer was far from his first love, of course.
He never intended to make money out of the Jets, hence his promise to return all profits into running the club.
Yet he clearly never envisaged that this exercise would cost him sleep as well as money.
Tinkler has obviously been frustrated by FFA’s apparent intransigence, but perhaps the game’s governing body had no other options.
The Jason Culina and franchise licence issues are multimillion-dollar disputes, money the financially impoverished FFA is unlikely to find any time soon.
And FFA have not surprisingly hinted that many of the Jets’ wounds are self-inflicted.
It wasn’t FFA who signed Branko Culina to a ludicrous four-year contract. It wasn’t FFA who recruited a $3million footballer, on crutches, with a career-threatening injury.
Regardless of who is most culpable, we now have a situation where one billionaire, ex-Gold Coast owner Clive Palmer, has been turfed out of the A-League after constantly criticising FFA.
The A-League’s other billionaire, Tinkler, has declared he is pulling out – on the day of the A-League presentation night – although FFA laughably declared yesterday they did not believe he was entitled to do it.
Good luck trying to stop him, fellas.
One of those A-League advertising campaigns once labelled soccer: ‘‘Football, but not as you know it.’’
In this instance, perhaps that is because there are no winners, just a procession of spectacular own goals.