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By ESPN Staff

Tinkler in breach of A-League contract:FFA

FFA chief executive Ben Buckley has warned billionaire Nathan Tinkler's Hunter Sports Group (HSG) they're breaching a binding contract by walking away from the Newcastle Jets A-League club.

HSG shocked FFA and the football community on Tuesday when they announced they were handing back their Jets A-League licence effective immediately, citing irreconcilable differences with FFA.

But Buckley said HSG had a contract until 2020, could not simply hand back the licence and FFA expected them to honour their commitment to national competition.

"A club cannot just hand back a licence," said Buckley.

"The Hunter Sports Group has a legally binding contract that goes through until June 2020 to participate in the A-League and field a team in the A-League.

"So they do not have a right to hand a licence back and we expect them to fully commit and fully honour that contract.

"We are very surprised and very disappointed by the action that's been taken by the Hunter Sports Group.

"We only were informed of it this morning about 15 minutes before the press announcement was made.

"So obviously we are very disappointed not only by their actions but in particular for all the fans within the Hunter region who have come out and supported the Newcastle Jets this year."

Buckley called on Nathan Tinkler and HSG to review their decision and said he remained hopeful the Jets wouldn't disappear from the league.

"Well I would hope it wouldn't come to that," said Buckley.

"I think if you go back to when the announcement was made that HSG were going to take on the licence, they made a lot of noise about a commitment to football and building football in the community and helping the community of Newcastle more broadly," he said.

"So I would say to HSG they need to review that commitment, they need to honour their obligations and they need to make sure the people of Newcastle aren't let down."

Buckley refuted suggestions by HSG chief Troy Palmer that the FFA had not been willing to meet with the club and give "clear and transparent answers about the Jets acquisition fee and a variety of other issues."

"Let me make something very clear here," said Buckley. "We have met with HSG, we have had countless meetings with Troy Palmer to address these issues.

"Myself and our chairman Frank Lowy have repeatedly, can I say repeatedly, made the offer to meet with Nathan Tinkler and Troy Palmer, whether it be Newcastle or in Sydney and in fact as recently as a few weeks ago we had a meeting scheduled which was subsequently cancelled by HSG and Troy Palmer.

"So I want to correct the record because the constant assertion by Troy Palmer that we were not willing to meet is just nonsense."

Buckley said HSG have responsibilities to players, coaches and staff they must address and argued that private ownership models can be successful in the A-League - despite the recent disappointments involving Tinkler and fellow billionaire Clive Palmer who owned the now defunct Gold Coast United until FFA stripped his licence for rule breaches.

Buckley fronted a media conference on Tuesday afternoon and said FFA had sought legal advice and believed they had solid legal grounding.

"We've sought legal advice, we'll be issuing a legal letter to Hunter Sports Group this afternoon," Buckley said.

"We'll continue to explore our legal entitlements and our legal recourse.

"I think the obligation is clearly upon the Hunter Sports Group to live up to its commitments to live up to its contract. Pay the players, pay the coaches and continue to operate the team."

Asked whether he could guarantee the Jets would remain in the A-League next season in some form, Buckley said. "What I can guarantee is that we will work overtime to make sure the Hunter Sports Group honours its commitments and honours its contracts.

"We'll continue to pursue the legal options available to us.

"I would hope common sense prevails. I would hope the Hunter Sports Group abides by its commitments.

"Do we want to have a team in Newcastle? Absolutely. It's a vibrant footballing community and I don't think fans should be treated like this."

Buckley described the timing of HSG's announcement, just hours before the A-League's annual awards night as "appalling".


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