Carl Robinson has gone but the critical business of saving the Newcastle Jets goes on, with FFA chief executive James Johnson “confident” the embattled club can be saved from going under.
FFA are in the process of performing due diligence investigations on four live bidders interested in acquiring the Jets from absentee Chinese owner Martin Lee, who ceased funding the club almost a year ago.
Whilst Johnson wouldn’t confirm the number of potential buyers, nor divulge details of their identities, he remains committed to preserving the presence on the Hunter of a club which just two seasons ago featured in an A-League grand final.
“A change of ownership is clearly needed to revitalise the club and put it on a sound footing again, so it can continue its important role in the NNSW community,” Johnson told SBS The World Game.
“FFA and the APFCA (Australian Professional Football Clubs Association) are in discussions with a number of prospective buyers which also involves a thorough due diligence process.
“We are working towards finding a viable solution that’s right for the club, the region of Northern New South Wales, it’s players and supporters, and the overall football community in Australia.
“We are confident we can accomplish this in good time.
“But it’s equally important to make the right decision and follow a strong process.”
Lee has been trying to offload the club for almost two years, with currency transfer restrictions out of China proving an impediment along with the US trade tariffs that have severely impacted the profitability of his Ledman Group LED lighting business.
Meanwhile, the Jets have over $2 million in operational debts to clear and are in dire need of new blood at the top as they look to reset with fresh hopes for long-suffering fans, and a new coach following the bitter blow of losing Robinson and assistant Kenny Miller to Western Sydney Wanderers.
Another imperative for FFA and APFCA in making sure the Jets don’t crash and burn is the commitment to broadcaster Fox Sports to deliver a 12-team competition for the mooted kick-off of the new season on December 27.
Failure to do so could imperil the final months of a contract due to expire in July 2021.
“The Jets are a club with a proud history and tradition, and It’s disappointing that their owner Martin Lee hasn’t been able to provide the club with the ongoing financial support it requires during such a challenging time in Australia and around the globe,” added Johnson.
“The Northern NSW region represents historic and strategic importance for Football in Australia.
“In 2019, this region experienced a 13 per cent increase in total participation to 106,527 with 53,777 outdoor participants registered to 233 clubs.
“These outdoor participation numbers from the NNSW region represent 10 per cent of our overall outdoor numbers across Australia of 543,159.
“Strategically, it's important we ensure that we continue this momentum into the future and NNSW and the Newcastle Jets are very much part of FFA's XI Principles (for the future of Australian football) as is the role the region will play in the FIFA Women's World Cup which we are hosting on our shores in 2023.
“The Jets are a key part of the A-League fabric and are important to the competition.
“It’s only been two years since they participated in an A-League grand final.
“The club has regularly demonstrated it can compete strongly in the A-League and along with the community have made a strong contribution to all parts of the game (including the development of Socceroos and Matildas).
“The Newcastle region needs and deserves a strong, vibrant and successful club.”