NEWCASTLE Jets chief executive Lawrie McKinna says club owner Martin Lee has expressed no intention of bailing out on the Newcastle Jets, despite the prospect of suffering further financial angst during the coronavirus crisis.
Lee has tipped an estimated $15 million into the Jets since buying Newcastle's A-League franchise in July, 2016, and his resources have been stretched thin for the past two years by the impact of US tariffs on his Chinese business empire.
This season is shaping as particularly costly for Lee, given that Newcastle's average crowd (7386) at McDonald Jones Stadium has been their lowest for 10 years and the suspension of the competition means they are likely to miss out on gate-takings from their last two home games.
There has also been mounting speculation that Foxtel is considering walking away from its $56-million-a-year broadcasting deal with the A-League.
On Wednesday, Newcastle followed six of their fellow A-League clubs in standing down players and staff until at least April 22, which is likely to be extended if, as appears almost certain, the season is unable to resume.
McKinna said he was in daily contact with Lee, whose commitment to the club has shown no sign of wavering.
"It's not even been discussed," McKinna said.
"With the restrictions on getting money out of China, it's hard for him, but he's hanging in there."
Lee started exploring the prospect of either selling the Jets or forming a joint venture almost 12 months ago, but nothing concrete came from various expressions of interest.
In the current environment, McKinna said everything was effectively on hold.
"Obviously in the past, we were actively trying to sell the club," he said.
"Martin was open to that. But with what's happening at the moment, that [selling] is off the shelf."
Newcastle's previous two owners, Con Constantine and Nathan Tinkler, both had their franchise licenses terminated when they experienced financial hardship and were unable to pay players and staff.
McKinna said this was a "totally different" scenario, because Football Federation Australia's decision to shut down the competition, on government advice, had caused cash-flow problems for all clubs.
"At the moment we've stood everyone down until April 22nd, which is the date the competition has been postponed until," he said.
"We'll obviously get direction from the FFA and A-League closer to that date.
"There are a lot of things up in the air that are out of our hands.
"We're just waiting to see what happens with FFA and Fox and things like that.
"Hopefully for the good of the game, Fox, FFA, the A-League and PFA can all get together and make it work ... all the clubs rely on the Fox money to pay the wages."
McKinna said a "skeleton staff" of Newcastle's administration personnel will continue working, on reduced hours.
Players have been given individual programs to keep fit in isolation, in the unlikely instance that the season is able to resume.