Australia's soccer federation (FFA), having formed a new A-League team to replace one whose license had been revoked, is trying to keep the Newcastle Jets from bolting.
The Hunter Sports Group, owned by mining magnate Nathan Tinkler, announced Tuesday that it was handing back its A-League license due to irreconcilable differences with the FFA. But the FFA countered by saying Tinkler's group was legally bound by a club-participation agreement that doesn't expire until 2020.
''They do not have a right to hand a license back and we expect them to fully commit and fully honor that contract,'' FFA chief executive Ben Buckley said. ''A club cannot just hand back a license. FFA also expects that the Jets will continue to honor the playing contracts in place with each of their players."
The dispute led to speculation the A-League might be reduced to nine teams less than a week after the FFA announced it was bankrolling a new club in western Sydney to fill the void created when it revoked the A-League license for Gold Coast United. HSG chief executive Troy Palmer said the decision to quit the league was ''forced upon the HSG through an irrevocable breakdown in confidence of the current FFA management and its refusal to provide clear and transparent answers about the Jets acquisition fee and a variety of other issues."