Jets remain grounded

SHOCKWAVES from Nathan Tinkler’s extraordinary decision to abandon the Newcastle Jets have reverberated around the sporting nation.

Despite the urgings of soccer fans everywhere for Hunter Sports Group (HSG) to resolve its differences with Football Federation Australia (FFA), the two sides still have an enormous gulf between them. Having already made his views on soccer administration absolutely plain, Mr Tinkler rubbed salt into the sport’s wounds yesterday by praising rugby league and criticising soccer as a sport ‘‘bogged down in administration and dogged by ailing clubs for decades’’.

Even though Mr Tinkler’s intervention may well have stopped the Jets from folding 18months ago, there is still a belief among some that HSG used the club as little more than a stepping stone to its major target, the Newcastle Knights.

Mr Tinkler’s latest comments are likely to reinforce this view.

For its part, the FFA is determined to stand its ground, and unless a compromise can be reached in the next few days, the dispute in all of its complexity will be headed to the courts, where the only winners will be the lawyers.

It would be wrong, however, to dismiss the potential for eventual reconciliation. Soccer legend and Jets advisory board member Ray Baartz was adamant after meeting the FFA in Sydney yesterday that Newcastle would field an A-League team next season.

Whether HSG is involved might be another thing.

On one hand, it’s worth remembering the way Mr Tinkler walked away from negotiations over the Knights before resuming soon after as though nothing had happened. But this time the scenario and the stakes are rather different. The FFA might be guilty of all of the sins that Mr Tinkler has laid at its door, but its chairman, Frank Lowy, is not used to losing. This is one soccer match that is far from over.

PARKING is a perennial problem at the John Hunter Hospital.

While Royal Newcastle Hospital was close to Newcastle railway station and the old East End bus terminus, John Hunter has no such advantages. Just four Newcastle Buses routes stop at the hospital and while Hunter Health runs a free week-day shuttle service, its hours are relatively restricted.

Facing such difficulties, most people heading for the hospital do so by car. Hunter Health has taken about $20million in parking fees in the past five years. Overflows of vehicles into surrounding streets have been a constant problem for neighbouring residents.

In the short term, little is likely to change at John Hunter but the state government’s overhaul of regional public transport must ensure a substantially better bus service to the hospital. And Hunter Health must keep its parking fees at a minimum, while ploughing what money it does earn back into parking and transport services, rather than using it to take the pressure off government funding.

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