Billionaire soccer brawl widens: Did Nathan Tinkler pay 10 times more than Clive Palmer for a “standard” club license?

Newcastle Jets owner Nathan Tinkler is considering his options for legal action against Football Federation Australia after revelations he paid as much as 10 times more than other clubs in A-League to buy a license for the club.

Outspoken Gold Coast United owner Clive Palmer appeared on SBS TV’s The World Game program on Monday night to air his own frustrations against soccer’s head body.

During the interview he criticised the FFA’s financial and administrative practices, arguing that none of the money paid in licensing fees is fed back into the clubs.

“We paid $500,000 for our license, poor old Nathan Tinkler had to fork out $7 million for his license. None of that money went back to the players, it all went to the coffers of the FFA to pay inflated salaries of the management,” he said.

Palmer unknowingly sparked the latest battle for the governing body with the Jets, who released a follow-up statement yesterday saying Tinkler’s Hunter Sports Group was “reviewing the [licensing] transaction” with the FFA.

“The Newcastle Jets have been in dialogue with the FFA for several months in an attempt to resolve a number of key issues and take this opportunity to clarify their position. The Jets can confirm the FFA charged a substantial fee for its club license. This money was paid in good faith as the Jets were advised by the FFA it was a standard fee.

“It has since become apparent at the time of acquisition that the Jets were the only owners to be charged a multi-million dollar fee. The Jets are currently reviewing this transaction and considering their legal options.”

SmartCompany attempted to contact the FFA and the Newcastle Jets but both were unable to respond before publication. However, it was reported in The Australian that Tinkler paid $5 million for his license, by far the largest fee charged to any of the 10 A-League clubs.

The FFA responded late last night rejecting that the Jet’s had been misled on license fees.

“There is a difference between a license fee and an acquisition fee and the distinction is important,” Head of A-League Lyall Gorman said in a statement.

“The acquisition fee for a license is unique to each club and reflects the particular circumstances of that club and its market – its history, its success, its support, prior investment including by FFA, the potential of the market and other factors that are relevant to an assessment of value,” the statement said.

How the circumstances in Newcastle could warrant a 10-fold increase in licensing fees compared to Gold Coast was not clearly explained.

Hunter Sports Group says it was told by the FFA at the time of the acquisition that it was a standard fee.

In another blow to Frank Lowy, who as head of the governing body has been fielding complaints from club owners for years now about the FFA’s top-down approach, HSG threw their support behind Palmer’s criticisms.

“In regards to the key points raised by Clive Palmer, the Newcastle Jets support the notion of clubs having greater input into the running of the A-League; increased transparency and accountability of the FFA; a change in the current commercial model of the A-League,” a club statement said.

The most scandalous responses to surface from Palmer’s Monday night appearance on the SBS was that the mining magnate is planning his own break-away league.

Speaking on Melbourne’s SEN radio yesterday, former A-League boss Archie Fraser said there was a “cunning madness” to Palmer’s appearance on Monday night.

“He was there for a reason. Some of his antics of the last few days really suggest he is positioning himself and a group to break away from the FFA, which could be the right outcome because the FFA structure is holding back the league,” he said.


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