HSG fires off letter to reassure members

THE Hunter Sports Group has taken the extraordinary step of sending Knights and Jets members a letter to assure them both clubs are in good shape and have bright futures.

Knights and Jets members had the letter, which is not signed by or attributed to any HSG, Knights or Jets manager or staff member, emailed to them about 2.30pm yesterday.

About the same time, the Knights and Jets tweeted links to their respective websites where the 976-word letter titled ‘‘Did all this really happen in 20 months?’’ was posted.

‘‘No doubt, the critics will see the glass half empty and highlight these issues but looking closely, the glass is really pretty full,’’ the letter states.

In the letter, HSG applauds its decision to withdraw the Jets’ A-League licence in April and engage Football Federation Australia in a bitter public slanging match, which ended when HSG owner Nathan Tinkler and FFA chairman Frank Lowy struck a peace deal one month later.

Though HSG’s decision broke the hearts of the majority of the Jets’ 10,000 members, and prompted a $100million legal threat from FFA, the letter describes HSG’s stand as a ‘‘watershed moment’’ for Australian sport.

‘‘Perhaps, the two biggest stories in Australian and Newcastle sport over the past 20 months have been the privatisation of the Knights and the decision to hand back the Jets’ licence,’’ it states.

‘‘This licence decision still has its critics who are dominated by self-interest, but the majority of the football world held its breath and then applauded as the Jets made a real breakthrough.

‘‘The club managed to tear down a six-month-old brick wall by ensuring the Jets’ acquisition fee was brought into parity with the game, the Jason Culina insurance debacle was finalised with a compromise by all parties and the A-League competition is now undergoing financial restructuring with input from all clubs.

‘‘The Jets’ stand has now been acknowledged as a watershed moment for the sport all around the country and ensured stability for the club and the entire A-League competition.’’

The letter states HSG has taken the Hunter community on a ‘‘roller-coaster ride’’ since taking over the Jets ‘‘on a handshake’’ in September 2010.

‘‘There have been some amazing ups with the worldwide exposure generated by David Beckham’s visit with LA Galaxy, a sold-out rugby league Test to celebrate Darren Lockyer’s last game in Australia, a sold-out netball Test between Australia and England, and turning around massive financial losses in both the Knights and the Jets,’’ it states.

‘‘On the roller-coaster ride there was also the father and son departure of Branko and Jason Culina, the handing back of the Jets’ A-League licence, dismantling the Jets advisory board and a particularly disappointing start to the season by the Knights.’’

Despite the Knights’ (14th) miserable campaign thus far, HSG urges members to stick solid because ‘‘we will make Newcastle proud of the Knights and Jets and ensure every child in the region has a chance to wear the red and blue with pride’’.

‘‘Naturally, with the Knights’ privatisation and rebuilding the Jets, we all wanted instant success on and off the field but unfortunately, it can be a slow and exhausting process,’’ it states.

‘‘Be assured that no one wants success more than the entire coaching staff, players and management.

‘‘As a group we share your frustrations and disappointments particularly when so many of you have bought into the dream of making Newcastle and the Hunter the sporting capital of this great country.

‘‘Sport is a roller-coaster ride as the past 20 months have shown with the emotional highs and lows. We invite you to come on board and enjoy the ride as we attempt to do what could have only been a dream two years ago. That is, have a community that has pride in successful teams representing the region.’’

● Read Robert Dillon’s special report on the Hunter Sports Group on Pages 10 and 11 of today’s Newcastle Herald H2 News Review.

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