Jets, Canberra must get ownership deals done: APL chair

Anna Harrington |

The A-Leagues will not come to the rescue of clubs, APL chairman Stephen Conroy (right) insists.
The A-Leagues will not come to the rescue of clubs, APL chairman Stephen Conroy (right) insists.

Australian Professional Leagues chairman Stephen Conroy has put the heat on potential owners of the Newcastle Jets and a new Canberra team to get deals done, saying the A-Leagues will not prop up floundering clubs.

The Jets have been supported by a consortium of rival clubs since former owner Martin Lee was stripped of his licence in January 2021, but are in negotiations with a new buyer.

The future of Canberra United’s A-League Women team, currently run by state body Capital Football, is uncertain amid the hold-up with a bid for an A-League Men licence – and whether the new club would absorb the women’s team.

Conroy indicated Newcastle and Canberra’s futures needed to be sorted within the next month to allow the league to plan for the 2024-25 season – and wouldn’t rule out the possibility of either club folding if that didn’t happen.

Football club consortium FC32 are Newcastle’s would-be buyers.

ALW action from Newcastle Jets against Canberra United.
Canberra United and Newcastle Jets are facing a looming ownership deadline from the A-Leagues. (Darren Pateman/AAP PHOTOS)

A Newcastle Herald report on Monday said FC32 had agreed to a sale price, but that a lack of clarity from the APL on matters including the salary cap, competition structure, financial distributions, and the future of the broadcasting deal was stalling the process.

Conroy dismissed the report as the respective parties trying to gain “leverage through the newspapers”.

“They’ve been in negotiations. The APL has no direct say … (they) have been in discussions for a long period of time,” Conroy said on Tuesday.

“(Newcastle’s current owners) didn’t buy it to keep it permanently. They bought it to keep it alive and then sell it.

“It’s been three years, it’s disappointing it hasn’t been sold yet. The negotiations are reaching the very pointy end.

“The alternative … we supported Perth (as they awaited their recent sale), and it’s great to see Perth back and alive, but we’re not in a position that we can underwrite another club.

“The Perth support showed that we shouldn’t be part of an ownership group. We shouldn’t be propping up one club.

“We don’t have the financial capacity to do this for clubs as they go through their challenges.

“We’ve got to get our organisation in order and the clubs have got to do the same.”

Newcastle Jets players and fans.
Newcastle Jets continue to face an anxious wait as they look to confirm new owners. (Darren Pateman/AAP PHOTOS)

Conroy said it would be a “terrible tragedy” if the Jets weren’t in the A-Leagues next season.

“We need to know by relatively soon whether this is going to be a club that is going to play next season or not,” he said.

Conroy insisted the Canberra licence bid was “well, well advanced”.

Matildas striker and Canberra star Michelle Heyman last week said players would walk if not soon given certainty over their futures.

The APL chairman said he understood the frustrations but insisted Canberra’s future lay in the hands of Capital Football, especially if the bid didn’t get up.

“The problem is if we don’t have a bid, we don’t have a bid. So Capital Football have got to decide what they’re going to do,” he said.

“I remain an optimist that the Canberra team, which has got legendary performances over many years, stay in the competition.

“The absolute best way is for there to be a purchase, a new franchise which they can fold into.

“But if that doesn’t come up … the A-League is unfortunately not in a position where we can underwrite clubs.”