Thursday, December 14, 2006

FF Australia revokes NZ Knights A-League license

Football Federation Australia today determined that Octagon Sports Limited, owners of the New Zealand Knights Football Club, had breached their Club Participation Agreement for the Hyundai A-League and, as a result, have had their licence revoked. The FFA said the breach was due to an insolvency event. The licence has now been returned to the FFA who have reached agreement with New Zealand Soccer to manage the football team's operations for the remainder of the 2006-07 A-League season. The FFA has been in contact with the Knights players and ensured them of their contracts until the end of the current season. NZ national All Whites coach Ricki Herbert will assume the head coach position at the Knights immediately.

"The action that we had to take today is disappointing as the FFA has gone to great lengths since the commencement of the league to support Octagon Sports Limited who currently owe the FFA in excess of A$ 800,000," said FFA Head of Operations Matt Carroll. "In this context, it is disappointing that Octagon Sports Limited should suggest today that their viability is dependant on a relatively small scheduled grant being withheld by the FFA as a result of Octagon Sports Limited's long-term, multiple, serious Participation Agreement breaches."

FFA had previousl;y been advised by Anthony Lee, the Knight's Chairman, that the owners of the club wished to surrender their 5-year licence as they did not have the capacity to run the club. FFA considered this request, but in the interest of continuity and football, the FFA made Mr Lee an offer to relinquish the licence after the match on Sunday, 17 December. The offer by the FFA also included the Australian governing body wearing a substantial debt owed to it by the club. As there had been no formal response to the FFA offer from Mr Lee, FFA had put in place contingency plans, with the support of New Zealand Soccer, to ensure that the players are looked after and they play their remaining matches.

The issue came to a head today with Knights management issuing a statement accusing FFA withholding promised funds. "Currently, the NZ Knights are awaiting funds from the FFA in relation to the FOX Sports broadcasting partnership with the Hyundai A-League," it said. "These considerable funds (in quarterly payments) were promised to the Knights by the FFA but as of this moment are yet to be received. Upon receipt of those funds the NZ Knights will be in a position to continue in the Hyundai A-League. Without the promised payment the Knights participation in the Hyundai A-League is jeopardised."

The Sydney Morning Herald reported the Knights had run up debts of more than A$600,000 this season and that those losses will be worn by owners Brian Katzen, Anthony Lee and Maurice Cox. The FFA would take over the licence debt-free -- making it more attractive to potential buyers -- and would cover all the costs of running the team for the rest of the season. FFA chairman Frank Lowy told the newspaper recently that the governing body continued to support the concept of a New Zealand-based team in the A-League, despite the club's many failures on and off the field.

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