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May 1, 2012

Palmer thanked for helping save A-League

A man who had threatened to sue Football Federation Australia (FFA) for $20 million has been credited with helping save the A-League on a dramatic day in which the Newcastle Jets' future was assured.

Clive Palmer was among those thanked by another FFA critic - Perth Glory owner Tony Sage - on Tuesday after emerging from the first Joint A-League Strategic Committee (JALSC) meeting convinced of a bright future for the league.

Sage was full of praise for the FFA after 10 "critical" owner issues were addressed at the meeting, just hours after the governing body announced Nathan Tinkler's Hunter Sports Group (HSG) had reaffirmed their support for the Jets.

Palmer threatened legal action after being stripped of the Gold Coast United licence, but Sage believed the A-League owners' issues raised by the outspoken mining magnate and fellow billionaire Tinkler prompted a change of heart from the FFA.

That theory was backed by news on Tuesday that FFA chairman Frank Lowy had flown to Brisbane to hold face-to-face weekend talks with Tinkler - with stunning results.

Tinkler stunned the FFA last month when he announced his intention to hand back the Jets' licence because of "irreconcilable" differences with the FFA.

But after the weekend talks, the FFA had "resolved matters" with HSG - including the settlement of the ongoing Jason Culina insurance matter - to ensure they would keep the Jets' licence until 2020.

"I understand why Clive lost his licence but he put $18 million into the game and I respect him for that and his opinion," Sage told AAP.

"He did precipitate a lot of the media hype (about owners' issues) and the FFA may have felt they needed to respond.

"He and Nathan Tinkler have had a lot to do with it (FFA change of heart).

"You would have to ask the FFA but maybe they could see the dominoes tumbling (after Palmer and Tinkler's departure).

"For someone like Nathan Tinkler to put his support behind the Jets - it is an indication of just how much the FFA have changed their thinking.

"And we got that positive vibe (at the meeting) that things were looking up."

Sage said it was not being melodramatic to describe Tuesday's JALSC meeting in Sydney as crucial to the A-League's future.

He represented the owners along with Peter Sidwell (Melbourne Heart) and Greg Griffin (Adelaide United) at the meeting also attended by FFA directors Brian Schwartz, Joseph Healy and Phill Wolanski as well as CEO Ben Buckley.

Sage said owners would save up to $3 million a year on "key issues" already addressed, with up to 20 points still to be discussed.

The JALSC will next meet in June.

"I have been openly critical of the FFA for many years - I think this is the first time I have something nice to say about them," Sage laughed.

"But we have been looking at other leagues for a guide on what is fair and we are not asking for anything that is not fair or unreasonable."

Tinkler said he had warmed to renewing talks with Lowy after discovering the FFA chairman would fly to Brisbane just to meet him.

"I took that as a sign of goodwill. It was a gesture I certainly appreciated," Tinkler said in a statement.

"We now have a way forward and I remain committed to ensuring the Newcastle Jets is one of the most successful clubs."

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