Newcastle Jets owner Martin Lee stripped of franchise licence

GONE: Martin Lee
GONE: Martin Lee

MARTIN Lee has effectively been sacked as Newcastle Jets owner and the club will be taken over, for an interim period, by a consortium of other A-League investors.

Football Australia, in conjunction with Australian Professional Leagues, announced on Monday "the immediate termination of the A-League and Westfield W-League licence held by Newcastle Jets Club Pty Limited (ACN 602 270 664)".

The statement said the termination was "based on the entity's failure to pay its debts as and when they were due, which placed it in material breach of the Club Participation Agreement".

It did not specify how much money the Jets owed.

The statement said a new licence would be issued "to an entity owned and controlled by a consortium of existing APL club investors, who will operate the licence on an interim basis until a new investor is secured. The Newcastle Jets will continue to participate in APL competitions and current players of the Newcastle Jets will be offered contracts with the new entity."

Football Australia CEO James Johnson said Lee had "been given every opportunity to rectify the club's financial situation and continue as the owner and operator of the licence or to sell the club to another investor.

"The company's concurrent financial position however, left no other choice but to terminate the licence."

Jets CEO Lawrie McKinna revealed recently that Lee had not "put one penny into the club" since October 2019.

Lee bought the Jets four years ago and is estimated to have invested $15 million in the club, including a licence fee of around $5 million.

But the Chinese businessman encountered unforeseen financial difficulties and has been trying to sell the Jets for the past two years.

Johnson said there were "clear failings to adequately capitalise Newcastle Jets FC to meet the minimum requirements set to run an A-League and Westfield W-League club, and to operate a company in accordance with Australian law".

He described Newcastle and Northern NSW as a "heartland of Australian football".

The APL - formed from a collective of club owners - formally took over running the A-League last Thursday when Football Australia announced the "unbundling" of its professional competitions.

APL head Paul Lederer, who also owns Western Sydney Wanderers, insisted at last week's announcement that the Jets were a crucial part of the competition who would be part of the A-League "hopefully forever".

APL Commissioner, Mr Greg O'Rourke, said the APL takeover was "an ideal outcome" for the Jets and the code.

"Newcastle is a vibrant footballing region with a long and proud history in the game and we are delighted that the Newcastle Jets will continue to participate in the APL," he said.

It will be the fourth change of ownership in the Jets' history, after the club was previously bankrolled by Con Constantine, Nathan Tinkler, and, briefly, the governing body.