Tinkler Group Chairman Nathan Tinkler has confirmed the Hunter Sports Group will have no further role in the Newcastle Knights and has called for immediate action to ensure a speedy transition to a new ownership model.
"This negotiation has dragged on for over 10 weeks and it is clear the Members Club has stalled the process,” Mr Tinkler said.
“After injecting over $20 million of my own money it is time to stand aside, and hopefully the Knights will prosper and not revert to the old management style and formula that almost sent the club into liquidation 3 years ago.
“Since HSG took over the Knights, we have lifted the annual spend of football operations to be over $3 million above the average NRL club.
“Commercial reality will mean staffing numbers will now need to be reviewed, grants cut to the junior League programmes and the local Newcastle competition.
"I have done my bit for the town by investing more than $20 million and saving the Knights from liquidation and now it is time for someone else to step up to the plate,” he added.
Mr Tinkler emphasised the reports in the media of a Club debt of $20 million have been exaggerated and mischievously reported.
"Any figure like this could only include money I have put onto the Club. The debts of the Club are substantially less than the $10.5 million, which is currently sitting in a bank account and not earning interest,” he said.
It is also the belief of HSG, the NRL and independent legal opinion, the original agreement does not provide for the Members Club to purchase the Knights back for $1 and receive the bank guarantee, despite being continually leaked to the media by interested parties.
“If this is the case, why hasn’t the Members Club stepped in, instead of resorting to the protracted negotiations,” Mr Tinkler said.
“We are determined to do everything to make it a smooth transition, but we require all accounts to be settled before leaving the Club - then it will be up to others to take the Club forward.
“Once all liabilities are paid there will be adequate cash flow available to support the new owners,” he added.
Mr Tinkler remains positive about the future for the Knights.
“Through our investment in junior development, our 20s are on top of the table, the Harold Matthews team won the National Title and SG Ball made it to the finals,” he said.
“Over the past 3 years we have also provided every opportunity for the Knights NRL team and coaching staff and I’m sure this will pay-off down the line.
“On a personal level, the most inspirational moment of the past three years was last week when I visited Alex McKinnon in hospital and saw what the true Newcastle spirit was all about.
“I want a successful Knights Club, which generates pride for the whole Hunter, but I can not understand why the local press simply want to criticise the Club, its players and attempt to bring down everything that is great about Newcastle and the Knights.
“If people don't put self interest in front of what is best for the Knights, the future is extremely bright.
“The Club is in a far better position than it was when HSG took over, with the Club then drowning in $7 million of debt, inadequate administration facilities and no formal training facility," Mr Tinkler concluded.
The Hunter Sports Group wish to emphasise its hope is that negotiations can conclude quickly and the NRL will support the Knights, if needed, during this transitional period.
The Club and Mr Tinkler will make no further comment.
Click here for a statement from Chairman Paul Harragon.
NRL STATEMENT ON NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS
The NRL said it will continue to lead negotiations with various parties to secure the future of the Newcastle Knights.
The Hunter Sports Group today confirmed that it will have no future role in the Knights.
“Negotiations over the new ownership structure of the Newcastle Knights are advancing and will continue next week,” Head of Club Services, Mr Tony Crawford, said.
“We remain focussed on ensuring the Newcastle Knights remains a strong and healthy club in the interests of its players, staff and fans.”
Mr Crawford said no further comments on the negotiations will be made until they have been finalised.