FFA willing to consider all options to save Jets

FOOTBALL Federation Australia will explore ownership options including a supporters trust proposed by Jets fan Toby Mills and a model similar to the South Sydney Rabbitohs if they are unable to reach a compromise with the Hunters Sports Group.

The governing body remain hopeful that HSG will rescind its decision to hand back the Jets’ A-League licence but have been busy working behind the scenes on an alternative. Although stopping short of guaranteeing the Jets’ survival, the FFA are committed to having a team from the Hunter.

FFA chief executive Ben Buckley and A-League boss Lyall Gorman made a rushed trip to Newcastle on Monday, a day after the A-League grand final, to meet with Lake Macquarie businessman Andrew Poole regarding his potential involvement in a community-based model.

The visit by the hierarchy followed a rally on Friday attended by more than 1500 Jets fans.

“There’s no doubt the Jets fans are some of the most passionate and loyal supporters in the country and we admire their commitment to the club,’’ Gorman said yesterday.

‘‘That certainly gives us plenty of motivation in our task of ensuring there’s a club representing Newcastle and the Hunter Valley in the A-League next season and beyond.”

FFA are committed to funding the new Western Sydney franchise next season but plan to make the transition to a community-based model in the future.

Mills, a 21-year-old nursing student, has put together a 16-page draft for a supporters trust which is inspired by lower-tier English clubs England clubs Exeter City and Brentford, where fans buy a share in the club.

Mills believes a 10 per cent share would be a realistic target for the supporters trust, with the remainder funded by other investors, including the FFA.

Gorman confirmed interest in Mills’s draft, which he initially put together when previous owner Con Constantine encountered financial difficulty.

“The idea proposed by Toby Mills for a direct ownership by fans is something for the A-League to consider,” Gorman said.

“We’ve always envisaged that the league’s private ownership model would naturally evolve to give fans a greater level of engagement, a bigger say in the way their club functions.

“The situation in Newcastle today means it’s too early to make any assessments about the best model until such time as matters are resolved with Hunter Sports Group.”

FFA are also understood to be looking at the ownership set-up of the Rabbitohs.

Movie star Russell Crowe and businessman Peter Holmes a Court own 75 per cent. The remaining 25 per cent is owned by South Sydney Member Co, which is comprised of club members. The members elect their own board and nominate two representatives to sit on the football club board.

Member Co also have a veto, even though they are the minority, over names, colours, logos and other heritage issues.

Monday looms as D-Day in the impasse between HSG and FFA.

HSG announced 15 days ago that they intended to relinquish the licence, citing irreconcilable differences with FFA.

They reaffirmed that stance on Friday. They have paid the players and coaching staff until April 30.

Previous attempts by HSG and FFA management to negotiate a deal have failed and it seems the only way forward is for Tinkler and FFA chairman Frank Lowly to meet. But with both believed to be overseas on business the likelihood of that happening before Monday appears remote.

The Herald understands that Jets youth team coach Arthur Papas is in India for a job interview.

Sydney FC are yet to appoint a new coach. Graham Arnold remains the favourite but if he decides to stay at the Mariners, Jets coach Gary van Egmond is likely to be in their sights. West Sydney are also in the hunt for a coach.

Van Egmond did not return calls from the Herald yesterday.

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