FOOTBALL might be a sport, but at the top professional levels, it’s anything but a game.
The day after the Newcastle Jets finished with the A-League wooden spoon on Saturday, club management announced it was “parting ways” with head coach Mark Jones, who has been shown the door halfway through a two-season contract.
In late February, the Jets were being talked about as one of the surprise packets of the season, and potential finals contenders. But the club finished the 27 rounds of the main competition with six consecutive losses at an aggregate score of 19 to 1, and a host of players are surely destined to follow Jones out the door.
A clean-out of the roster – together with a new coach – are both surely inevitable if club owner Martin Lee is to bring the Jets anywhere near up to scratch. Having paid a reputed $5.5 million for the Jets franchise in June last year, the Chinese electronics billionaire appears to have the deep pockets necessary to fund a club that – like many professional sporting outlets – is not necessarily a profit-making proposition.
History shows the Jets have had more than their share of difficulties when it comes to ownership. Although the club won the 2007-8 A-League under original owner Con Constantine, his subsequent financial difficulties – and those of his successor as owner, Nathan Tinkler – have made it hard for the Jets to develop the sort of stability associated with successful sporting franchises.
It is worth remembering that Lee bought the Jets just before the start of this season, and that Jones only came on board as head coach after a dispute between his predecessor, Scott Miller, and the then-new owner.
In this light, the 2017-18 season represents a virtual clean slate for Lee as owner, and Lawrie McKinna as chief executive, to put a proper stamp on the red-and-blue.
In football, as in the National Rugby League, there appears to a growing gap in spending power between some of the top capital-city teams and those in the regions – the Jets and the Newcastle Knights included.
Hopefully, Lee’s wealth will put a bit more fire-power into player purchase, and McKinna’s well-attested footballing nous will see that money put to good use.
As the Jets’ season unraveled, coach Jones will have known that his job was on the line. He did the best that he could, but professional sport is an unforgiving arena.
The search for success continues.