Rob Tew: Let the community be part of any Knights ownership model

STRONG: There has been wide backing for the Knights community ownership model.

STRONG: There has been wide backing for the Knights community ownership model.

More than four months have passed since the announcement of the Knights community ownership model.

There is still some way to go before any resolution of the situation, but it is important to note that interested parties extending from business leaders through to game-day fans have engaged in the process of determining the future of our NRL franchise, its ownership and operation.

The facilitators of the community ownership concept would like to thank all those who have registered their interest and given financial and other assistance.

The support has been overwhelmingly strong.

The backing has come from far and wide including individuals, companies and community groups. The mayors of Newcastle (Nuatali Nelmes), Lake Macquarie (Kay Fraser), Port Stephens (Bruce MacKenzie), Tamworth (Col Murray), Maitland (Peter Blackmore), Gunnedah (Jamie Chaffey), Upper Hunter (Wayne Bedggood) and Dungog (Harold Johnston) have sent letters of support.

It was certainly pleasing to know the Knights are not just considered a Newcastle or Hunter phenomenon but on a broader level represent regional aspirations. Specifically, the organisation provides pathways for “boys from the bush” and it is imperative an NRL franchise remains in and for northern NSW.

Numerous organisations have expressed interest in the community ownership idea and we have been happy to address them and in so doing have answered many questions. 

Several thousand parties have indicated they want to be part of the scheme, but we are well aware we will need much more support, both financial and otherwise, to enable our community to own the licence for the Knights.

At this stage the number of supporters who have registered their interest seemingly is not enough to convince the National Rugby League that the community alone has the commitment to finance the Knights long term.

The NRL has provided information to us, and its CEO Todd Greenberg attended a meeting with some of the facilitators when he visited Newcastle earlier in the year.

The ownership structure now being contemplated by the NRL may differ from our original proposal, but we are advocating strongly to the NRL that any future operation must include a community shareholding component if there are to be a number of “owners”. Our plan has received interest from the Business Council of Co-Operatives and Mutual (BCCM). BCCM chief Melina Morrison believes the Knights’ traditional areas of support would form a strong base for ownership under a co-operative scheme.

The University of Newcastle through the School of Business has also indicated its interest in the proposed ownership model partly based on the importance of sport to a community.

A visit to our website ourknights.com.au shows the range of people who have indicated their support and allows those who have not yet indicated their interest to do so.

There is still plenty of work to do but we again want to thank the community for getting behind the concept.

We will continue to update you as we work towards a sustainable form of ownership we believe is best for the Knights and our region based on the broad base of community commitment.

Rob Tew is Our Knights spokesperson

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