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Apr 20, 2012

No compromise in Jets' A-League saga

Nathan Tinkler's Hunter Sports Group (HSG) says it will follow through with plans to return the Newcastle Jets' A-League licence after claiming compromise talks with Football Federation Australia (FFA) broke down.

HSG announced on Friday it would stand firm on its earlier decision to hand back the licence, and said it would "welcome and look forward to any forthcoming legal action".

HSG claimed it had "lengthy discussions" with FFA and had put forward a proposal to the federation to continue its licence but the offer had been rejected.

However, FFA hit back strongly on Friday afternoon, saying no formal negotiations had taken place and that it had not rejected, or seen, HSG's four-point proposal.

Continuing a confusing and bizarre turn of events in the saga, HSG released a statement early on Friday afternoon saying it had offered a peace deal to FFA which meant it could still fulfil the licence agreement it held until 2020.

The terms of the deal included FFA reviewing a reported $4.5 million fee in the acquisition of the club's licence and settling the ongoing Jason Culina insurance matter immediately.

HSG claimed it would also invest $250,000 on behalf of all clubs and the FFA to create an independent taskforce to make recommendations on improving the sustainability and transparency of the A-League.

But HSG claimed the proposals were immediately rejected by FFA chief executive Ben Buckley.

"This inflexible stance highlights the inequitable position and ongoing discrimination in which the Jets have been placed over the past 18 months," the statement read.

"The FFA's mindset of being unwilling to negotiate provides a clear impression that FFA does not want the Newcastle Jets to be part of the football family."

FFA responded later on Friday, rejecting the assertions made in HSG's statement.

"FFA has remained willing to enter formal negotiations and to receive a formal proposal from HSG in order to find a resolution in the best interests of the game in the Hunter Valley," the statement read.

"FFA CEO Ben Buckley reaffirmed this position with HSG CEO Troy Palmer earlier this week.

"Yesterday, Mr Palmer informed Mr Buckley that a discussion between Mr Palmer and HSG chairman Nathan Tinkler was due to take place overnight, and that a proposal would be submitted to FFA by lunchtime (on Friday).

"No proposal has been submitted and no further contact has been made with FFA."

Buckley added: "FFA reaffirms its position that it does not accept that HSG has the right to return the A-League licence."

FFA said it would not interfere with the Culina matter because it was being heard by an independent arbitrator and said there was "no need" for a $250,000 external review.

And it claimed it had offered to enter formal negotiations over the licence fee "but HSG has repeatedly declined to sit down around the table".

Friday's events have further clouded the club's future, with its staff and players left in limbo over their futures.

It also came as fans prepared a rally at Hunter Stadium.

With the matter almost certainly headed for the courts, the club's future would likely hinge on FFA stepping in to rescue it.

And FFA indicated it could be prepared to do so, saying in the statement: "FFA today reaffirms its commitment to the football community of the Hunter Valley."

"The region is too steeped in football tradition and passion not to be represented in the A-League."

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