HSG gives Jets advisory board members the boot

HUNTER Sports Group have dissolved the Jets football advisory board as the fallout from the club’s licence fiasco continues.

Honorary board members Keith Harris, Joe Senkalski, Neil Jameson and Cheryl Salisbury were formally advised of the decision yesterday.

“We would like to thank Neil, Keith, Cheryl and Joe for their contribution and dedication over the past 18 months,’’ Jets CEO Robbie Middleby said in a statement.

Ray Baartz has been retained as the chairman and the club indicated it would appoint a new board, although no time frame was given.

The Jets statement said that the club was going in a ‘‘new direction’’ but the club declined last night when asked to comment further.

The advisory board was formed 18 months ago shortly after Nathan Tinkler took over the club.

The Herald understands that, despite a constructive early relationship, the board had not met for five months and their relationship with HSG had fractured over the company’s decision to relinquish the club’s A-League licence.

The board was not consulted about that decision and had been seeking a meeting with HSG since it was announced in May that they would take the licence back up.

The board was called to a meeting with HSG chief executive Troy Palmer and Middleby on Monday afternoon where they were informed of the decision to dissolve the body.

Jameson and Salisbury did not attend. They and the other board members received confirmation of the decision by email yesterday.

Baartz said he was ‘‘torn by his allegiance’’ to the other members but felt he still had something to offer.

‘‘I’m sorry to see the others go because they are quality people and have done such a good job and have contributed a lot,’’ he said.

‘‘My objective is to serve the club going forward, and if I can contribute in some way I’m only too happy to do that.’’

The Jets said in their statement that Baartz would help with the appointment of a new board, but the former Socceroos vice-captain said he had not been informed on what shape it would take.

‘‘We have not got into any details as to how they want to set the board up down the track,’’ he said.

‘‘Maybe they are looking to redefine the role of the advisory board and what it will be called.’’

Jameson, a respected former Herald journalist, warned prospective board members that ‘‘if they think they are going to come to have a meaningful contribution, think again’’.

‘‘We have not had anything to do with the running of the club for many months,’’ Jameson said. ‘‘The disaster that has rolled out has not happened on the advisory board’s watch.

‘‘In fact we were not informed by HSG that the powers that be had pulled the plug on the club on April 10. Most of us found out the news from other parties outside HSG.’’

Jameson, Baartz and Harris travelled to Sydney for a crisis meeting with Football Federation Australia the day after HSG dropped the bombshell – an act the Herald understands was perceived as disloyal by HSG.

‘‘We were not privy to what was going on with HSG and Football Federation Australia,’’ Baartz said.

‘‘As we stated a few times, our main objective was to work out some sort of reconciliation [between FFA and HSG] if possible. Thankfully that worked out.’’

Harris confirmed that the main reason the board had been abolished was the breakdown in the relationship.

Although disappointed with the demise of the Jets advisory board, he encouraged HSG to ‘‘embrace and work in conjunction with the football and wider community’’.

‘‘The last couple of months have been emotional and stressful for all concerned and I am pleased that we still have an A-League team to support,’’ he said in statement.

‘‘Whatever you think of the Hunter Sports Group, they are to be thanked for carrying the can and paying the bills.

‘‘Of course, we can spend time opening up old wounds, but will it really help?

‘‘I reckon it is time for all administrators, coaches, players and the community to put all the dramas, agendas and egos behind and work together towards hosting an A-League grand final and getting a local kid in the Socceroos.’’

Senkalski, a former Socceroo, was saddened and shocked at the axing.

‘‘It came out of left field for me but they’ve got their reasons for doing that,’’ he said.

‘‘When Ray called me at the start and offered me a role with him, I was just delighted to get back involved.

‘‘It was enjoyable and I felt I was getting back involved with the players and coaching, but it’s been taken away as quickly as it arrived.’’

Salisbury could not be contacted for comment last night.

¦ Read Keith Harris’s statement in in full at www.theherald.com.au

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