NEWCASTLE football icon Ray Baartz has called on the Jets and Football Federation Australia to stop their public squabbling and start compromising after another day of acrimony between the warring parties.
Speculation that Jets owner Nathan Tinkler had attempted to contact FFA supremo Frank Lowy at the weekend raised hopes of a resolution to the crisis, only for Hunter Sports Group to react angrily yesterday after comments in the Newcastle Herald from FFA head of corporate affairs Kyle Patterson.
Patterson accused HSG of ‘‘a stunning lack of business acumen and basic courtesy’’ in seeking information about the acquisition fees paid by rival clubs.
He also said Tinkler’s attempt to hand back Newcastle’s A-League licence, 18months into a 10-year contract, shed ‘‘a very poor light on HSG in relation to the way the group conducts its business’’.
Not surprisingly, those quotes infuriated HSG officials, especially on a day when Tinkler made $970million from the merger of Whitehaven Coal and Aston Resources.
‘‘We had heard the talk of the FFA wanting to sit down, find some common ground and hopefully a positive resolution, however, the comments passed by an FFA official yesterday are obviously inflammatory and do nothing to help provide a positive outcome for either party,’’ HSG chief executive Troy Palmer said yesterday.
‘‘If they were approved by FFA’s senior management, they highlight the FFA’s position, lack of respect for the HSG and clearly provide a roadblock to any chance of a compromise.’’
Baartz, who is chairman of the Jets’ advisory board, said yesterday that he believed Tinkler was receptive to a possible compromise but the bickering between the two organisations was counterproductive.
‘‘I know Nathan has taken a hard stance here, but I think deep down he still wants to have a Newcastle Jets team and finance it,’’ Baartz said.
‘‘I just get the impression he still wants to be involved.
‘‘But there has to be a bit of give and take from both parties ... I think HSG and FFA need to sit down with an independent arbitrator and thrash it out.
‘‘I don’t think you do that by taking potshots at either party in the media.
‘‘The best way is to sit down and talk it through. And it has to be done soon, for the sake of the players.’’
Baartz said he was ‘‘as shocked as anyone’’ when it was announced last week Tinkler intended to bail out, but he maintained that the self-made billionaire was the best man to bankroll the Jets.
‘‘We’ve never had the professionalism that HSG have brought to the table over the last 18 months,’’ Baartz said.
‘‘They’ve started something here that I’d really like to see them build on. Nathan took on the licence for 10 years, so he had a vision and pathway he wanted to create for our juniors.
‘‘I’d like to think that can still happen. I don’t think the differences [between HSG and FFA] are insurmountable.’’
FFA chief executive Ben Buckley said he had heard nothing from the Jets since the game’s governing body sent a legal letter last week that warned the club not to breach the terms of their licence.
‘‘Our door remains open at any time for a conversation about a way forward,’’ Buckley said. ‘‘We’ve said that consistently. We’ve made that known to HSG through intermediaries in the last few days.’’
Buckley appeared to have no qualms with Patterson’s comments.
‘‘The comments that were made in the Herald today are consistent with what has been said for the past few weeks,’’ he said.
FFA officials have denied repeatedly that Tinkler paid over the odds to own the Jets, saying each licence was valued individually.
They have also dismissed HSG’s complaint that FFA was culpable in the Jason Culina fiasco for not ensuring the former Socceroo was insured, saying it was Newcastle’s decision to sign a player just weeks after major surgery.
Those two disputes, and concern about the A-League’s viability prompted Tinkler’s stunning decision last week.
FFA has countered with a threat to sue the tycoon for at least $50million for breach of contract and damages.