Fans assured  clubs have nothing to fear in Tinkler sale

FOOTBALL Federation Australia officials have been assured by the Hunter Sports Group it is business as usual for the Newcastle Jets.

Yesterday’s revelations that HSG owner Nathan Tinkler had sold his Whitehaven Coal shares sparked speculation about the future of his two footballing flagships, the Jets and Knights.

In the worst-case scenario, Mr Tinkler has at least provided the Knights with a $10.3million bank guarantee that would secure their financial future.

For the Jets – whose licence Mr Tinkler tried to relinquish in April last year before a meeting with FFA chairman Frank Lowy – there is no such safety net.

It is understood that senior FFA officials made inquiries to Jets management yesterday and were satisfied with their responses.

‘‘FFA has regular communication with Hunter Sports Group, as we do with all A-League clubs, and we’ve been assured the operations of the Newcastle Jets are continuing as normal,’’ an FFA spokesman said last night. ‘‘Newcastle and the Hunter Valley are a part of football’s heartland and the Jets are the flag bearers in the region.

‘‘Nothing that’s happened today changes that,’’ the spokesman said.

An National Rugby League spokesman said rugby league’s governing body was ‘‘monitoring’’ the situation.

Knights chief executive Matt Gidley said in an HSG statement that the sale of Mr Tinkler’s shares would not affect the Knights.

‘‘The sale of shares in Whitehaven at a 40per cent premium is a positive for everyone and will have no impact on the Knights nor Nathan’s commitment to the team and Newcastle,’’ Mr Gidley said. ‘‘We are extremely grateful to have someone like Nathan who has a genuine passion for the Knights, Newcastle and our junior development.’’

Knights chairman Paul Harragon declined to comment, saying the official statement was sufficient.

Mr Gidley’s counterpart at the Jets, Robbie Middleby, was also quoted in the HSG statement.

‘‘In speaking with the Tinkler Group, they are happy with the outcome, particularly achieving a substantial premium in the current market,’’ Mr Middleby said.

‘‘Nathan remains as committed as ever to the Jets and this latest business decision is to be congratulated, and naturally will have no impact on our preparations for the upcoming season.’’

Nick Dan, the chairman of the Knights members’ club, which is entrusted with ensuring Mr Tinkler honours all the terms and conditions of his 2011 takeover deal, said he had not spoken to HSG yesterday.

‘‘We’ve been emailed the Knights’ statement but I haven’t heard anything other than that.’’