The Hunter Sports Group (HSG), the Newcastle Knights and the Newcastle Jets have refrained from retaliating to the personal attacks being driven by a negative local press campaign over the past 12 months.
The Clubs understand Members and supporters would rather hear about their team doing well on the park, a new player joining the Club, a coach or former player being inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame, than any of the politics.
Due to this ongoing campaign and following Thursday's comments from former Knights Chairman Rob Tew, the matter needs to be addressed.
A story in today's Newcastle Herald gives the impression that a new tax debt has not been met by the HSG. This is completely wrong.
To publish this story without the facts is another example of the agenda driven by the Newcastle Herald against the HSG and their pessimistic view in general.
The Knights Chief Financial Officer for the past ten years confirmed the new tax debt was incurred during Mr. Tew’s tenure and overseen by previous senior management and the Board at the time of acquisition. The liability was not dealt with during this period by the Board due to ongoing cash flow problems.
The HSG paid all reported debts deemed payable by the old administration and Board at the time of acquisition; this was in excess of $6 million, which included unpaid tax of approximately $1.2 million. This is after advising HSG that the debt was in the vicinity of $3.5 million.
Mr. Tew’s regime left the Club in a dire financial state; he corresponded with the HSG to prepay funds in advance of the takeover deal to avoid the Knights being placed into administration. This was due to mounting debt and a huge taxation bill that the Board couldn't meet and would have been personally liable for.
The new debt that is referred to in today’s paper results from accounting adjustments of over $3 million dating back to May 2008.
This new $365,386 debt was recently brought to the attention of the HSG as payable after the 2011 year-end audit of the Members Club and will be paid in the normal course of business.
The HSG has placed all aspects of this issue today in the hands of its legal advisers and further action is anticipated.
“We are frustrated by the ongoing campaign to destabilise the Knights and Jets, which is to the detriment of every Novocastrian,” Group CEO Troy Palmer said.
“Nathan has made a considerable investment to ensure stable Knights and Jets football clubs.
“It appears some people can’t let go of the tall poppy syndrome or on-going political battles which almost destroyed the Knights on several occasions and they continue to promote any negativity they can about Nathan, be it fact or fiction.
“We have to all remember this is a man that has not only saved the Knights and Jets, but brought David Beckham, Darren Lockyer’s last Test match and Netball Tests to Newcastle, made a significant contribution to Surfest and a host of other benevolent gestures and never asked for a thank you.
“I have no doubt every Knights fan is excited that Nathan brought Wayne Bennett to the Knights and that we have an outstanding team and structure heading into season 2013.
“While the fact that Nathan was able to entice former England international Emile Heskey to join the Jets shows his commitment to both teams.”
The Knights have prospered commercially under the new management structure and have broken almost every previous key performance indictor against the past administration. In fact, both clubs are now amongst the benchmark clubs in the NRL and A-League.
“The Club is in a new and exciting era and it is time to focus on that,” Knights Chairman Paul Harragon said.
“The Knights have never been better positioned as a Football Club and that is solely thanks to Nathan.
“I am positive I can speak on behalf of all Members and supporters in saying we will never forget Nathan’s contribution to this Club and town.”
Because of this negative campaign driven by the Newcastle Herald, the Clubs have stopped their journalists from attending Knights and media opportunities.
Both clubs will continue to work with all other local and national media outlets and provide team information on the Club websites and social networks.
The Knights and Jets are open to fair and balanced criticism of their performance both on and off the field.
“We hope this provides clarity on recent reporting and that Members and supporters remain comfortable that Nathan has an ongoing commitment to ensure the best possible outcomes for both the Knights and Jets,” Palmer added.
“One thing is for certain, we will not let negativity nor the Newcastle Herald’s agenda drive us out of town or prevent us from running the Clubs for our community.”