Knights sue Jets over stadium

Austadiums   |  Friday 12th February 2010

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Newcastle's two football flagships appear headed for court after the Knights launched legal action to recover more than $300,000 they allege the Jets owe them for hiring EnergyAustralia Stadium.

Knights officials have lodged a winding-up application in the Supreme Court over arrears that have been outstanding since March and incorporate the Jets' Asian Champions League and A-League campaigns.

The Knights are major tenants at the State Government-owned stadium and sub-let it to the Jets.

The two organisations have been at loggerheads for several years over their stadium-sharing arrangement.

In this case, the Knights say the Jets have not paid hiring fees or for services provided, in particular corporate hospitality.

As well as taking legal action, the Knights said they would suspend all pre-paid corporate catering services for the Jets' final-round home match against Adelaide tonight.

Knights chairman Rob Tew said yesterday such measures were "an unfortunate last resort" after the Jets had ignored numerous requests to settle their account "in an amicable manner".

"The Jets hire EnergyAustralia Stadium on a cost-recovery basis and we just cannot afford to allow them to build on such a large debt," Tew said.

"We have a duty to our business and its members to act in their best interests . . . we have agreed to allow the Jets to use the ground to complete the fixture schedule but we will not be incurring any further costs on the Jets' behalf."

Jets owner Con Constantine was fuming last night and said he was willing to meet the Knights in court.

Constantine said Knights management "hide behind a veil of hypocrisy", pointing out that the NRL club owed the State Government more than $1 million in unpaid rent because of a dispute over the stadium's redevelopment.

"These people become more hypocritical by the day," Constantine said.

"They owe more than $1 million in rent at the stadium, and they also think they deserve compensation because of the construction site."

"What is the difference for the Knights and the Jets? Aren't we playing at the same stadium?"

Jets chief executive John Tsatsimas said his club asked for an abatement in hiring fees but the Knights had not responded to that request.

Knights chief executive Steve Burraston said his club's dispute with the State Government and the Jets were completely unrelated issues that should not be compared.

"This has nothing to do with the stadium construction whatsoever," Burraston said. "It has to do with non-payment of services provided."

Burraston said the Jets had received income before the season started from the hire of corporate boxes.

The Knights, who are in a tight financial position with accumulated losses of more than $2.5 million, have since paid the Wests Group to provide those corporate boxes with food, drink and staff but have not been reimbursed by the Jets.

The Herald was told that on several occasions the Knights had received cheques from the Jets that were long overdue and then "bounced".

Asked whether that was the case, Tsatsimas said "not to my recollection". Constantine said such allegations were "rubbish".

Constantine said the Knights "had very short memories" because he had sponsored the NRL club with large sums of money in the late 1990s.

He would welcome the chance to resolve the stadium stand-off in court.

"That's the only way," he said. "This is a situation where they think they own the stadium . . . the stadium is owned by the people."

ROBERT DILLON
The Herald

 

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