THIS is not about money; it’s personal. It has to be.
When you’re worth $1billion, a few million here or there is surely nothing.
But when you believe you’ve been taken for a ride – a very public ride – well, that’s different.
When Football Federation Australia approached Nathan Tinkler to take over the Jets’ A-League licence 18 months ago from the cash-strapped Con Constantine, they should have been offering to pay him.
FFA would have been desperate for a wealthy benefactor to take over and finance a club they would have otherwise had to bail out themselves or leave to die.
Instead, amazingly, they asked Tinkler to pay millions of dollars for the right to own a club that bleeds money and is never likely to break even, let alone turn a profit.
To say a club that lost many millions in 10 years under Constantine is worth a $3.5million acquisition fee is ludicrous.
The only thing more unbelievable is that Tinkler would pay it. And that’s where the heart of this mess lies.
Tinkler signed on the dotted line, even though no other owner had paid anything like $3.5million to buy into a competition that lost $27million last year across 10 clubs.
But if we ordinary folk didn’t do our research before buying a new fridge or TV, only to discover a few months later that our neighbour paid one-tenth of the price down the road, we wouldn’t blame the shop owner or the salesman.
It’s our fault. It’s our money and we didn’t protect it. We would cop it on the chin, learn our lesson and move on.
Not Tinkler, it seems.
He is also upset at the role of FFA representative and former HSG executive chairman Ken Edwards, who brokered the licence deal and was reported to have received at least $250,000 from FFA for his services.
A-League boss Lyall Gorman has said HSG was aware Edwards was working for FFA.
Again, Tinkler seems to have copped a raw deal.
But again, it’s difficult to feel sorry for him.
He’s a self-made billionaire, an Australian success story, and someone you would expect to hold his own around a negotiation table.
Professional sport is a money pit and the A-League is one of the deepest.
Surely Tinkler knew this.
He spoke glowingly of the NRL this week and how well it is run in comparison with the A-League.
But his Knights, like most NRL clubs, have continually lost money and battled to stay afloat. So for Tinkler to swing wildly at FFA about the administration of the “unsustainable’’ A-League is bewildering.
Perhaps the real reason for this week’s shock announcement can be seen in the sequence of events.
An email this week revealed that Tinkler’s Hunter Sports Group has been trying to have questions answered since last April about the exorbitant licence and acquisition fees it paid.
However, HSG’s frustrations were made public only after Clive Palmer told the world on February 20 about how Tinkler had unknowingly paid much more than his fellow owners. Tinkler would not have enjoyed the public embarrassment.
Tensions rose quickly when Tinkler’s questions over the fees were not answered, as can be seen by the March 16 email revealed in the Herald yesterday.
Another source of angst for Tinkler has been the Jason Culina affair.
HSG signed Culina for three years on a deal worth a reported $2.65million, even though the Socceroo had just had knee surgery.
Alarm bells, anyone? Well, no one at HSG heard them.
Culina never played a game and had more surgery. Tinkler sacked his coach, Jason’s father, Branko, and tried to have Jason’s contract set aside, only for the whole mess over his injury to descend into an insurance wrangle.
Again, it’s hard to feel sorry for Tinkler.
His company was unfortunate or did not do its homework. Where to now?
FFA has refused to accept the licence back and has threatened legal action to keep Tinkler to his promises.
And Newcastle soccer fans hope for a quick resolution to keep their team alive and intact.