Jets fans to rally this afternoon

SOCCER matters to the people of the Hunter.

Thousands of Hunter residents will unite today to send that message to the powers who hold the future of the Newcastle Jets in their hands.

Fans, business owners, politicians and sporting legends are forming a united front in the lead-up to a supporter rally at Hunter Stadium at 4pm.

The club’s future has been in limbo since Nathan Tinkler’s decision to hand back his A-League licence to Football Federation Australia.

Tinkler’s Hunter Sports Group is in dispute with the FFA over the licence acquisition fee and injured playmaker Jason Culina’s insurance policy.

But the politics will take a back seat as fans band together to throw support behind the Jets.

Rally organiser Bryce McCarter said he expected a big turnout at Hunter Stadium.

‘‘It’s looking like it’s going to be quite huge, a lot of people have indicated they are going ...,’’ he said.

‘‘The one message I really want to push is that this is not an opportunity to point the blame at FFA or HSG, this is a show of strength to demonstrate the passion that this community has for professional football.’’

More than 1000 people have indicated on the event’s Facebook page that they will be attending the rally.

The lower concourse of the western grandstand at Hunter Stadium has been offered to organisers in case of bad weather.

Tim Verschelden, president of Jets supporter group the Squadron, said it was a time for people to forget personal views on soccer politics.

‘‘This is about fans of football and the people of Newcastle, there’s no different groups involved and we’re all going to be there under one banner,’’ he said.

Newcastle’s most capped national league player and former captain Andy Roberts will speak at the rally.

‘‘Football has been a huge part of my life and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without it,’’ he said.

‘‘Football brings the community together and gives people a cause to come together. I urge people to get there from 4pm to support Newcastle.’’

Newcastle lord mayor John Tate said it would be a shame for the region to lose part of its sporting identity.

NIB chief executive Mark Fitzgibbon said he hoped HSG could resolve its issues.

‘‘Hopefully there will be a resolution because the best outcome for Newcastle and the Jets is for HSG to run the club,’’ he said.

Families rally to show depth of their passion

NEW Lambton neighbours the Davises and the Sinclairs will be among the thousands of Newcastle Jets fans expected to flock to Hunter Stadium for a public showing of solidarity this afternoon.

And while their passion for the red and blue of the city’s flagship football team is as strong as any other Novocastrian, the two families have a couple of vested interests in seeing the Newcastle Jets remain in the A-league.

Mick Davis’s son Josh, 12, is a member of the Northern NSW under-12s squad and hopes to one day go from amateur to professional football with the Jets.

‘‘Josh is in the rep scene at the moment and I know he’s only 12 but what they do in the rep team is building towards the Jets,’’ Mr Davis said.

‘‘It’s a big let down for him.’’

The football-mad neighbours, who are well represented at New Lambton Football Club, were worried their children could lose interest in the sport should the Jets fail to field a team next season.

That is why, at tonight’s rally, the families plan on making their voices heard as Jets supporters band together in an attempt to show the powers that be that the Hunter deeply cares about football.

The rally starts at 4pm at Hunter Stadium.

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