A-League would welcome plans for fans to own Jets

Newcastle Jets fans in full voice during an A-league match Source: Getty Images

The newly-formed Australian Professional Leagues would welcome any plan to save the Newcastle Jets, even if it involves a model based on fan ownership.

The Jets' A-League and W-League licence has been stripped due to unpaid debts by absentee owner Martin Lee and given to a consortium of three club owners on a temporary basis until a new owner is found.

APL chairman Paul Lederer said the Newcastle area is a vital cog in Australia's football industry and every effort is being made to make sure the club stays afloat.

Newcastle's ownership problems go a long way and the latest development has given impetus to the growing notion of the former champions being partly or fully owned by their fans.

Lederer, who is also chairman of the Western Sydney Wanderers, said a level of fan ownership would be welcomed by the APL, which obtained its independence from Football Australia last week.

"We are open to any opportunity and any measure that could keep the Newcastle club afloat," Lederer said.

"We as a league will operate with an open mind on all issues but it is really up to Newcastle's supporters and the city's business community to decide the Jets' future.

"Newcastle is an important football area and no stone should be left unturned in the efforts to save the club.

"The whole community should get involved. So if this means fan ownership, so be it."

A model for fan ownership in the A-League exists. It was drawn up a year ago.

Lederer also spoke about several issues surrounding the league.

What can the fans at large expect from the 'new' A-League?

"The hand brakes are off and the club owners can now invest with confidence.

"We have an opportunity to deliver and give the game the future it deserves. We've got the best game in the world and we've got to deliver the best product that will last many years ... it is as simple as that.

"Obviously, this won't happen tomorrow morning ... it's got to be step by step."

What are your views on visa spots? Do we have too many or would you like more foreigners?

"We are all committed to academies - we at the Wanderers have spent an absolute fortune. Sydney FC, Melbourne City and Melbourne Victory are investing too for tomorrow.

"Foreign players are important but there has to be a certain limit because it is our intent to produce local talent.

"Maybe we have aimed too high for too long (in terms of visa players) so we have to be more modest in our approach. It's a new world out there and we will have people capable of taking the game where it should be. The best years are ahead of us. I am very positive."

One of the APL's aims is to assimilate with the rest of the world. What about the Aussie-style finals ... would you keep them or abolish them?

"We'll keep them, no question. The finals mean a lot to Australian fans and we're not planning any revolutions."

The A-League is accused of being a closed competition, a 'cartel' if you like. What do you say to that?

"I'm not going to criticise Football Australia. They did it their way and that's it.

"We will have a board, a number of clubs will be represented and we'll have on board a few top people from all over the world who will make a quantum difference.

"I stress, our major consideration is the fans. This game is all about the fans and the players. Without fans and players we're nothing."

How keen is the APL about a second division, promotion and relegation?

"That's a subject for the future. It's not going to happen this year or next year. We certainly want to increase the number of clubs and when we're up to 16 we'll have a look at the issue. There are higher priorities at the moment."

Some critics have dubbed the A-League a 'plastic league' comprising franchises instead of real clubs. Is this fair?

"I don't think it is fair at all. The league is in reasonable shape but we want to make it better. Engagement with the fans is the lifeline of the business and we will deliver."

Football has had many false dawns in its evolution. Why should the fans believe the new league's promises?

"They should be optimistic because we have never had an opportunity to show them what can be done.

"The league was run by the FFA, now it will be run by us. We have some pretty competent people involved and our track record is reasonably strong. Why wouldn't they believe in us?"