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Jets, Knights will survive say peak bodies
By James MacSmith and Justin Chadwick
20:15 AEST Thu Dec 13 2012

The NRL and the FFA have moved to allay fears over the future of rugby league's Newcastle Knights and their A-League siblings the Newcastle Jets due to debts of around $2.5 million.

The Australian Tax Office on Thursday applied for both of owner Nathan Tinkler's teams, the Knights and soccer's Jets, and their parent company Hunter Sports Group, to be wound up due to unpaid debts.

According to documents filed in the Federal Court in Sydney, the Knights owe more than $1.4 million to the tax office, the Jets owe just over $1 million, while Hunter Sports Group is $184,000 in the red.

The tax office has applied for a liquidator to be appointed for both the Knights and Jets and Hunter Sports Group.

However both the NRL and FFA said they were confident the future of each club under their respective authority was not in jeopardy.

Interim NRL chief executive Shane Mattiske said the guarantees that were put in place when Tinkler took ownership of the Knights in 2011 would ensure the club remains viable.

"In relation to the ownership by Hunter Sports Group, guarantees have been put in place by the commission to safeguard the Knights position," Mattiske told AAP.

"Those safeguards were a condition of ownership and are there to ensure the club's future."

The FFA said the Jets would continue to remain viable under Tinkler's ownership.

"FFA has been given assurances by Hunter Sports Group, owner and operator of Newcastle Jets, that the club's operations will not be affected," the FFA said in a statement.

A $20 million bank guarantee was a condition of Tinkler's privatisation of the Knights and the granting of their NRL licence. It is understood the Jets are not covered by a similar safety net.

Hunter Sports Group said it had not been advised of the ATO's move to appoint a liquidator.

"We are surprised by the move by the ATO, as we have not received notification of this move," Hunter Sports Group said in a statement.

"We advise that any outstanding sum will be paid as soon as possible - well before the reported hearing date on the matter next February."

Knights chief executive Matt Gidley and his Jets counterpart Robbie Middleby echoed similar sentiments.

"I have been advised that the outstanding payment to the ATO will be paid shortly and the issue will be resolved," Gidley said in a video statement.

"We are looking forward to regrouping after the Christmas break and looking forward to a positive 2013 on and off the field."

Middleby added: "Our main concern at the Newcastle Jets at the moment is that the players and staff in Perth have their minds on the job and to ensure the Newcastle Jets have a successful 2012/13 season".

The development is a concern for both governing bodies given Gold Coast United's demise last season and the Gold Coast Titans financial struggles. The Titans' troubles resulted in a complete overhaul of the club's administration before they were granted a new NRL licence last month.

Tinkler has reportedly failed to make player payments to the Knights on time. Jets players said the same had not happened to them.

Jets stand-in captain Ruben Zadkovich said: "It's not really something the players can have any input into. We've just got to go out there and do our best, and things will either work out or won't. I don't think the Newcastle Jets are in any danger at the moment. We've just got to focus on the football and let the off-field dramas sort itself out."


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