FFA poised to pull A-League licence of renegade Newcastle Jets chief Lee

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Football Federation Australia are expected to strip Newcastle Jets absentee boss Martin Lee of his licence this week, leaving the 11 other A-League clubs to fund the team whilst a new owner is found.

Paul Lederer - chairman of the club’s representative body AFPCA - confirmed earlier this month a financial “safety net” had been put in place to prevent struggling franchises from going under, as the A-League prepares to run its own affairs after a separation of powers from FFA.

That process is all but complete - leaving the new professional league to pick up the pieces from a era of neglect from Chinese business mogul Lee, who ceased funding the Jets 14 months ago.

The intervention of the clubs will ensure the Jets’ participation in the upcoming season - which kicks off on December 27 - by covering ongoing operational costs.

However, $4 million in estimated debt is due to a range of creditors - including rent to the operators of McDonald Jones Stadium.

And that is unlikely to be addressed by the clubs.

FFA were hoping to conclude the $8 million sale of the Jets this month, but a Sydney-based consortium pulled out at the eleventh hour after claiming the club failed to provide a document to complete the due diligence process.

Shenzhen-based Lee has been looking to offload the club for over two years, having taken charge in 2015 for a $5.5 million premium.

He bought the Jets from FFA after failed mining baron Nathan Tinkler was stripped of ownership as a result of placing the Jets in voluntary administration.

Lee claims to have injected $15 million during his increasingly troubled tenure and, pre-COVID, according to chief executive Lawrie McKinna, he rejected a takeover offer of $12 million.

FFA’s impending stripping of his licence will leave him empty handed, whilst the club’s rising level of debt may complicate the search for new ownership.

Lederer recently confirmed the existence of the emergency fund to protect vulnerable clubs, telling The World Game: “Obviously we need a successful league and to cut a long story short there will be a safety net there (to support any ailing teams).

“Hopefully we’re not going to let any clubs go under ... we want to improve the status of teams rather than go backwards.

“Once we get independence there’ll be no FFA (bailing out battling franchises), as clubs we will all sink or swim together.”

It’s uncertain how the clubs will divvy up contributions to the fighting fund, with the likes of Central Coast Mariners and Perth Glory having financial issues of their own to deal with and likely to resist further imposts on their resources.

An FFA spokesman insisted discussions with alternative owners are still live.

“FFA and the APFCA are in discussions with a number of prospective buyers which also involves a thorough due diligence process,” a spokesman said.

“We are working towards finding a viable solution that’s right for the club, the region of NNSW, it’s players and supporters, and the overall football community in Australia. 

“We are confident that we can accomplish this in good time, but equally important to make the right decision and follow a strong process.

“A change of ownership is clearly needed to revitalise the club and put it on a sound footing again and continue their important role in the NNSW community and we are hoping to have a new owner for the Newcastle Jets very soon.

“The end objective is to bring stability and future sustainability to the Jets.”

Meanwhile, the Jets - who are looking for a new coach to replace Carl Robinson - have several spots on their roster to fill as they head into the new season with caretaker Craig Deans at the helm.

The Jets and AFPCA were also approached for comment.

Source SBS The World Game