The Newcastle Jets could soon be on the hunt for a new financial backer with reports claiming owner Martin Lee is looking to sell the A-League club.
Jets owner Lee is desperate to find new backers to take on some of the financial burden of running the Hunter based side, according to an article in The Australian with the Chinese billionaire looking to off-load his stake in the club.
It could mean the Jets are set to face another tough year on the paddock with Lee to make major cut backs on player and staff costs limiting any chance for coach Ernie Merrick to bolster his squad in the off-season.
Twelve months ago Newcastle were the talk of the A-League after a brilliant campaign where they ended an eight season finals drought before suffering a controversial defeat in the grand final to eventual champions Melbourne Victory.
While the Jets were expected to challenge for the title again this season, Merrick's side suffered a cruel reality check as they struggled to find form before finishing the season outside the finals.
Club chief executive Lawrie McKinna told The Australian that the club was struggling with a few issues off the pitch but assured fans the team would field a competitive side next season.
McKinna, who last week travelled to China for key strategic meetings with Lee, revealed that the billionaire has been looking to move on from the club since the middle of 2018.
"He (Lee) did want to sell the club 100 per cent lock, stock and barrel about nine months ago and there were a couple of interested parties but nothing came of it,” McKinna said.
“Martin’s preference now is that he wants to keep the club, but have a shareholder involved to help take some of the financial load.
"He would look at selling if someone wants to buy 51 per cent or even 100 per cent … he would definitely look at that.”
Lee, who bought the Jets in 2016 for $5.5 million, has been downsizing his once sizeable portfolio of football investments including folding his Chinese club Shenzen Ledman which played in China's second division.
Trade tariffs between the USA and China has had a major impact on Lee's fortunes with his LED lighting company Ledman Group suffering a severe downturn in profits.
The money troubles faced by Newcastle's owner will hit the club hard with McKinna admitting the club will have less money to work with next season making a marquee signing out of the question.
“We will be cutting the budget a bit but the amount has not yet been finalised," he said,
““When you include the marquee, we spent a fair bit over the salary cap last season as we did the previous season.
“That is why I was in China last week. There is still a bit to do and we are waiting for confirmation from China.
“The cuts will be to bits and pieces, player and staff budgets.”
Venezuelan marquee midfielder Ronald Vargas and Brazilian import Jair were among six players released by the club this week.
However, the Jets are still confident of resigning striker Roy O'Donovan despite negotiations reaching an impasse last month.