NRL's Newcastle Knights Members Club Board Asks Owner To Step Down
National Rugby League club Newcastle Owner Nathan Tinkler will "be asked to hand over control" of the Knights by giving the club's NRL license back to the Members Club board, according to James Hooper of the SUNDAY TELEGRAPH. With his "billion-dollar asset-rich empire crumbling by the day," Tinkler "will be told to cut ties and walk away for the good" of the Newcastle club and community. Given the Australian Tax Office has "commenced wind-up proceedings against Tinkler" for a A$2.7M ($2.9M) debt and the New South Wales Government is suing him for A$600,000 in unpaid rent on Hunter Stadium, the Knights Members Club board has "been presented with little alternative." Tinkler will be asked to give up his A$20M bank guarantee and allow the Members Club board to "take over the licence and the day-to-day running of the NRL club effective immediately." Knights Members Club board Chair Nicholas Dan was "guarded when asked about the proposition." Dan: "Our top priority is to keep the club going at its best, so we will be discussing all options. Owners come and go, players come and go but the club must always come first" (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 12/16).
TOO INVESTED: In Sydney, Brett Keeble reported Hunter Sports Group CEO Troy Palmer, Tinkler's right-hand man, said that Tinkler had "invested too much into the Knights and the A-League's Jets to consider handing back the NRL licence to the members club." Palmer said that Tinkler was "in much better financial shape than reported" and that a A$3.19M tax bill would be paid to the Australian Taxation Office in the next ''seven to 10 days.'' Palmer added that all of HSG's creditors "would be paid and that an audit report into the Knights' financial operations would reveal HSG met all requirements." Palmer: ''We're not going anywhere. We haven't done all this work and made this investment in Newcastle and brought a lot of good people to this town to walk away. We're 100% committed to this" (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 12/17).
A KEEN PERSPECTIVE: Also in Sydney, McDonald & Kogoy reported Newcastle coach Wayne Bennett "warned the club's supporters against getting caught up in the anti-Tinkler fervour sweeping the Hunter region over the coal baron's financial problems." Bennett reminded the Tinkler critics to "take a deep breath." Bennett: "Remember some of the people that ran the club in the past didn't have a great amount of success either. I'm just not sure where they're coming from on this issue. If you look at the last 18 months and compare what we have to what we did have, there is no comparison. And that includes whether you are talking memberships, sponsorships, and playing staff. That's all because of Nathan's input" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 12/17). In Sydney, Chris Roots opined "Tinkler does things his own way." It is "neither patient nor friendly." He has "more enemies than friends in racing." However, it is "difficult not to have a little bit of compassion for him following the sale of All Too Hard." This was "the horse he wanted and needed to make his Patinack Farm empire flourish." Before feeling too sorry for Tinkler, "think of the men and women within the industry he has discarded." Anything he has achieved "has to be tempered by the stories of vets, farriers, feed merchants and others who have not been paid" (SMH, 12/17).