NATHAN Tinkler insisted last night the Newcastle Jets were "not my team" but belonged to the fans after agreeing to buy the ailing A-League franchise virtually sight unseen.
The self-made mining and horse-racing tycoon said Football Federation Australia had approached him "a couple of weeks ago" about rescuing the Jets, after long-time owner Con Constantine was unable to pay players and staff, citing financial hardship.
Mr Tinkler said he agreed to FFA's proposal "as an act of community", although he had never attended a Jets match or been a passionate follower of the round-ball code.
But while he agreed to fund the club for the rest of the season, with an option to continue that arrangement on a long-term basis, Mr Tinkler said Novocastrians had to realise it was their team, not his.
"When I realised how serious things were and that the Jets weren't going to see the season out, I wasn't left with much of an option, I didn't think," Mr Tinkler said.
"I've very much taken this on, I suppose, as an act of community. Newcastle's got 16,000 junior soccer players, and the Jets can provide an outlet for that.
"We want to assist in getting the Jets back to a community club and seeing that embraced . . . it's not my team, it's Newcastle's."
An emotional Mr Constantine held a media conference yesterday afternoon at which he wished Mr Tinkler well but declared he had been betrayed by FFA officials.
"There was no reason for FFA to pull the pin unless they were dealing with Tinkler the last few weeks," Mr Constantine said.
"I have the highest respect for Nathan. He is out there helping the Knights and is going to be helping the Jets. Good on him.
"I can't knock the guy. I think it is good we have someone in Newcastle who can do it. All my problems are with the FFA, not Tinkler or anyone else."
Mr Tinkler said he had "probably watched more soccer in the last three weeks than I have in my life" but was happy to delegate the hands-on operation to his staff, including his newly appointed acting chief executive, Ken Edwards. "Don't think you're going to see an A-League owner like Con," Mr Tinkler said.
"He's a unique individual and very passionate about his soccer and that sort of thing, but I'm not the person that's going to be telling the club who to recruit and who they should buy and how they should play.
"I don't know enough about the game to do anything like that. This club is not about me.
"What I've done is secure the financial stability of the club, but now it's up to the coach and the players and we'll let them do their talking on the field."
Mr Tinkler said he would not be at the home game on Saturday.
"But I will get to some games this season," he said.
A generous benefactor who has financially supported the Knights for the past few years, Mr Tinkler said he could envisage both footballing flagships eventually operating as one organisation.
"I would say that's a fairly obvious strategy to put the two together, given that their seasons don't interphase on each other," Mr Tinkler said.
"No talks have taken place or anything like that, but it would certainly be something that I'd be looking to investigate in coming months . . . I have a good relationship with the Knights.
"I think they're a good club with a good management team, so if something can be done there in the future we'd certainly be wanting to investigate it.
"But right now it's about securing the future of soccer in Newcastle and I'm happy to play my part in that."
Asked whether he hoped that the Jets could one day run at a profit, Mr Tinkler replied: "I'm not really in a position to comment on that . . . I just know that Newcastle has a proud sporting history and that's what I'm interested in supporting."
"Whether the club is prepared to survive like the Knights have for the last few years, losing $100,000 here and there and $500,000 one year, I'm not prepared to let Newcastle lose its sporting outlets for that sort of money . . . I suppose I have the luxury, having enjoyed success in life, that I can support community ventures in this way."
FFA explained in a media release that Mr Constantine's licence was revoked after he was unable to convince them he had overcome his financial crisis.
"The FFA board has determined, after a series of meetings with the club and its owner, that the club did not have the ability to meet the club's short- or long-term obligations and has therefore decided to withdraw the licence," FFA said in a statement.
"The club was given numerous opportunities over recent weeks to show it had the financial capacity to continue operating, including at meetings in recent days with FFA management and with the FFA chairman and FFA deputy chairman."