"By many measures the model is considered the most sustainable in world football.""By many measures the model is considered the most sustainable in world football," Jameson told Crikey. "I'm sure the FFA are aware of it and would be considering it as one of the long-term options for the A-League." The NRL is somewhere in the middle on private ownership, which luminaries of the game like Mal Meninga have seen as the way of the future. Aside from the Knights, there are half-a-dozen privately owned clubs in the 14-team NRL: the publicly-listed Brisbane Broncos, the fully private Melbourne Storm, Gold Coast Titans and New Zealand Warriors, and the part-private South Sydney Rabbitohs and Manly Warringah Sea Eagles. The Broncos, 69% owned by News Corporation, are believed to be the most profitable club in the competition. The business made $2 million in after-tax profit in 2013, a bit down on the prior year, on massive (and rising) revenues of $35 million. By contrast the Storm, owned by News until last May when it was sold to a bunch of low-profile private investors, made a profit of just $419,000 last year despite revenues of $22 million. Manly -- half-owned by chairman Scott Penn and 12% owned by the members of the club -- has not filed its 2013 accounts yet but in 2012 it made a loss of $970,000 on comparatively paltry revenues of $14.5 million. Souths, on the other hand, finally clambered to a $1.4 million profit last year on revenues of $24 million, seven years after a 75% stake in the club was sold to now estranged duo Peter Holmes a Court and Russell Crowe (James Packer is believed to be weighing up a stake). The debt-laden Titans lurched from crisis to crisis under founder and former MD Michael Pearce -- almost losing their licence in 2012 -- until a white knight businessman from Wagga Wagga, Daryl Kelly, bailed out the club, paying $3.25 million for a 32% stake. Australian Securities and Investments Commission records show the Titans got another million-dollar equity injection in late January with Kelly's private company Bruttund Investments stumping up half that to lift his stake to 34%. It has been a similar story for the Warriors, owned 50/50 by expat kiwi businessman Eric Watson -- founder of the failed debenture finance company Hanover -- and billionaire countryman Owen Glenn. Warriors chief Wayne Scurrah told Crikey the club made a small surplus last year -- not in the millions -- on revenues exceeding $20 million and recently invested a million dollars into a new gym. He agrees there are no safeguards for club fans should the owners ever falter for any reason, but says it's "no different to any business". The Knights financial position is similarly unknown as Tinkler's Hunter Sports Group is caught in the whirlpool of his diminishing business empire. The true financial position will hopefully be revealed to the NRL and Knights' members tomorrow when they sit down with HSG in a bid to resolve the future ownership of the club. With a number of local investors willing to back the Knights, the most likely outcome might be a transfer of the club back out of Tinkler's hands. It is a far cry from the rampant hopes of three years ago.
Want to own a sports team? Tinkler and the ‘narcissistic’ ownership model
Nathan Tinkler's ownership of the Newcastle Knights NRL club shows the risk to fans in private ownership. Crikey examines the richies playing ball and the cost when it all goes wrong.