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2014-06-06 02:57:16 GMT
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Knights face uncertain future
Newcastle Knights head coach Wayne Bennett has admitted the club faces an uncertain future with the NRL looking likely to step in to run the struggling franchise. With former owner Nathan Tinkler making the decision to cut his losses and run, the Knights currently find themselves without an owner, and with a playing and coaching squad offered no guarantee that their jobs are safe beyond the end of this season.
The NRL have admitted they are close to stepping in and taking charge of Newcastle on an interim basis until the club can find new owners. The sport?s governing body has been in talks with Wests Group in the hope of facilitating an agreement that would see the group take a significant stake in the franchise. Wests Group already runs four licensed sports clubs in the Newcastle area and NRL CEO Dave Smith has already held talks with the group?s boss Phil Gardner.
But with the Knights still in the midst of a messy handover of power between the former owner and the Members? Club, Wests have so far been unwilling to commit to any deal until the process has been completed and all outstanding debts settled. The NRL looking to organise a deal with Wests that would see the group take 80% of the club with the Members? Club taking the remaining 20%, in a deal that would see the NRL represented on the new seven-member board.
This deal hasn?t been immediately accepted by the Members? Club, who are so far unhappy with the deal that would see them with less control than they had wanted, allowing the members no more than one representative on the new board. That sticking point has resulted in the talks shuddering to a halt, with the NRL now reportedly exploring the option of revoking Newcastle?s license and forcing the Members? Club out of any future deal.
While the long-term future of the club is still far from clear, head coach Bennett has reassured the Newcastle staff that their immediate futures are safe but that beyond that there are no guarantees. Despite having a contract that runs until the end of next season, Bennett?s own future is also far from clear to the supporters and the betting odds. The head coach has reportedly made it known he would be willing to take a pay cut in order to stay, but it remains to be seen whether that is an option.
With the off-field issues taking most of the headlines, it?s hardly better for the Knights on the pitch. A 38-18 defeat to the Warriors leaves Newcastle second bottom of the NRL ladder, but possibly worse than the loss was the fact that the Knights saw more players forced to join the lengthy injury list ahead of the all-important clash against the Wests Tigers, looking to record just their third win of the season. A win would certainly bring some mild relief to the beleaguered Newcastle fans who are still unsure as to whether they?ll have a club to support next season, but the betting odds aren?t so sure.
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