The OzSoccer Articles

Swim between the flags

An unknown source brought forward some points through Bonita (at to counter the claims of the Breakers supporters (as in this article to which both Simon (at and Anon (Name and E-mail withheld by request) replied.

1. The Breakers "owner" was David Hall. He didn't pay previous owners for the club and ground and they were chasing him for $1.2 million. He had not paid SA his fees including the $250,000 he was supposed to pay for transfer of the licence.

I fail to see the relevance of an internal dispute between the Breakers and David Hall. I also fail to see how yanking the NSL licence would solve this. To Newcastle football fans all it has appeared to achieve is the loss of Newcastle's only stadium suitable for NSL football. It is also important to note that the Consortium that owned Breakers Stadium agreed on the revised terms regarding the sale of the stadium and the Consortium member who was making the most noise about non-payment came out in the press stating he was satisfied with the new agreement.

Ask the Consortium members what they think of the NSL licence being moved. These are the people who have supported NSL football in Newcastle for over 20 years and they have been left with debt owned on the stadium and no source of income. We are not talking millionaires here these are ordinary working people. Many of these mortgaged their homes to help Newcastle football and have been shafted. I wonder if they would be ready to step in again if they were needed.

Hall disagreed that the transfer fees were payable and frankly most reasonable people would agree with him. I am not privy to any legal arguments offered however it's interesting to note how diligent SA were on ensuring all clubs paid all amounts owing before being granted a start in last years NSL. Do the names Carlton and Eastern Pride ring a bell? I seem to remember both clubs still owe fees to SA.

At the time of the demise, Hall was a 5% owner, the remainder was still owned by the previous consortium. The very wealthy John Palmer was in the process of providing the funds to help Hall buy out the consortium. Soccer Australia's actions meant that their was no possible way for the old consortium to be paid out. Something that saw some very good football people suffer greatly. Of course, the 'shining Knight' in Con Constantine was only interested in giving the $250,000 'bung' to SA to serve his own interests. At least Hall was making some attempt(and still is) to pay back the consortium. Bonnie, your source clearly does not know the history of the purchase by Hall (or conveniently forgets). Hall was the only person prepared to offer the consortium a fair price. Where was Con Constantine when the Club originally went up for sale - probably sitting back thinking "Why should I pay $1.2m when I can get it later through contacts for $250,000". Actually very canny business, but hardly the saviour of local football.

Sure two wrongs don't make a right, but name a NSL Club that has paid it? I recall quite a few recent stories where it was revealed that others didn't pay, but were they kicked out? Were they asked to pay an EXTRA $300,000? In any case you later argue that Hall was selling to himself - so why the transfer fee? I believe this was a case strongly argued at the time. You make out as if the restructure of companies was somehow underhand, and yet I understand all those details were tabled for SA to consider.

2. Given that SA was about to enter a rationalisation process, it became evident to the NNSWSF (governing body of the game in the region) that Newcastle would lose its place in the league unless action was taken.

Pure conjecture. Best season on the park by the club. 48% increase in crowds over the previous season. Improved financial position as compared to the end of the previous season. Sure the club had major cash-flow problems but they were not as serious as at least one other club granted entry to the NSL and interestedly fell over mid season.

So are you saying that SA knew of a secret proposal by NNSWSF to replace the Breakers, and that was the determining factor in their decision? That by rejecting the Breakers bid, with no other proposal formally submitted, they were taking a wink and a nod from the NNSWSF that "something good" will be forthcoming? Familiar planning SA-style. As I understand it, NNSWSF has in it's charter something about assisting the incumbent NNSW NSL Club wherever possible. And their actions were assisting the "Breakers"? As I also understand it, when the Breakers approached the Federation for support, they said "No" and promptly gave $50K in sponsorship to a stupid harness race.

3. No secret deals were done. The media was informed all the way through as were the players.

Says who? Your source? The one you stated as being "someone who has had an involvement in it all" Sounds reliable to me. Of course if there were secret deals being done he would have told you all about it wouldn't he?

If there were no deals being done why was I asked my feelings on the Breakers moving to Marathon as far back as February last year? Why did one senior Breakers player ask one of my fellow Rowdies if he was going to follow the team to Marathon at the presentation night in May last year.

Explain this???

Hmmm Newcastle Knights stamped all over it. Breakers playing at Marathon. When was the womens world cup held? Long before Newcastle Uknighted was supposedly formed if my memory is correct.

The media was informed! That would have to be 'Leaky' Walker at his best along with his SA mate (see below)! It is also not what the local media claim, they say it was all 'smoke and mirrors' from all camps (not that you could believe them of course). Your claim is actually more likely to be true, because the media was getting details of deliberations and decisions long before the Breakers were informed. It was a standing joke that the Club had to ring Channel 7 to get the latest 'media release' on the Breakers saga. I notice that you never said the Breakers were informed of the dealings, surprising seeing they (the consortium) had the most to loose.

4. There was no collusion with SA. In fact, the Newcastle Herald had to publish a fax form so that fans could send a message to SA to get their finger out. I believe the response totally jammed SA communications for the day.

Who suggested the Herald colluded with SA. This statement doesn't make sense.

After the Herald's hatchet job on Hall, they were probably just surprised that SA had not immediately booted the Breakers out, and thought they would give SA a 'hurry up'. Keep in mind that at least two Herald journos were involved in the secret meetings with players way back at the end of the previous season, and were no doubt hanging on a negative result for the Breakers. Hardly innocent bystanders.

5. The reason SA was fudging on the change of ownership was that David Hall was closely aligned with a particular Board member.

And your point is? Are you seriously saying that NSL clubs aren't supposed to have relationships with SA board members? May be a bit difficult, Australian football isn't that big of community. It's no secret that Hall and Labbozzetta know each other.

Are you suggesting this relationship was improper? Are you suggesting that Labbozzetta was acting improperly? What evidence are you offering?

Perhaps Labbozzetta was of the opinion that the present licence holder should be given every possible opportunity to prove that are in a position to compete before taking the serious step of removing the licence. Gee how unreasonable of him. Perhaps Strikers and Cosmos fans may wish that he continues to hold that opinion.

Name an NSL Clubs that does not have friends with at least one Board member. Nothing wrong in that, it's just how that friendship is used that concerns me. I suspect it was more a case of "we know our decision, but we had better show 'due diligence' as we risk being sued". Also, it would have given SA time to repeatedly shift the goalposts. As for close alignments, is it true the Peter Woods (I've never heard of him until the Breakers deliberations) was a Board member at the time and is a good mate of Bill Walker, who help put the secret deal together? His name popped up repeatedly in a negative vein during that time.

6. The "new" owner Steve talks about was actually a guy called John Palmer who had just become a director of a company called Tru Blu. Guess who owned Tru Blu? Yes, David Hall. So, Hall was actually selling the Breakers to himself.

Well this is not exactly true and even if it was so what? It appears your source has fallen into the trap that Hall was responsible for all the problems in Newcastle Football. This is far from the truth.

Newcastle Breakers were ready to fold at the end of the 1998-1999 season. The only person ready to put up his hand to assist was David Hall. Without Hall there would have been no Breakers in 1999-2000 and therefore no ready made team for Newcastle Uknighted to poach for the 2000-2001 season.

Never for one moment would I deny that Hall made some major mistakes. However, the club was much better prepared to enter the 2000-2001 season then it was to enter the season before. . It was always going to be a long term proposition to turn the Breakers fortunes around but after a relatively successful first season Halls feet were cut out from under him. The club was in debt before Hall came in and it was in less debt at the end of the first season. Hall lost a considerable amount of his own money in the venture yet he was held totally responsible for all the ills at the club. Doesn't seem fair to me.

No argument there as I said. So what? It was not a secret. Are you saying that a major investor has no right to a Directorship? Or do you prefer the Con Constantine facist approach - one owner, no arguements, not even a football board or committee (which I might add was promised to those that volunteered to help Constantine out and is now a major source of friction.) Can't have democracy in the NSL can we?

7. NNSWSF and individual board members of SA requested Palmer be subject to a due diligence process. SA dragged their feet on this, blustered, threatened and seemed very intent on approving the dodgy "sale" to Palmer. Finally, sense prevailed.

What? SA appeared to be intent that the NSL licence remain with the current club. The bastards!!!! Let's pull the licence of every club with debt problems. I wonder how many would be left. If I remember correctly weren't two clubs in administration during that financial year and didn't two other clubs fail to finish the season? Were these clubs subject to the same due diligence process?

Your idea of sense appears to be vastly different to mine. Your idea of sense appears to be:-

Giving an NSL licence to an organisation with no prior association with football.

Giving an NSL licence to an organisation with close ties to a club from a rival code who are attempting to turn their stadium from single use to "multi-purpose" in order to assist them in obtaining $65 million in Govt funds to upgrade their stadium.

Giving an NSL licence to an organisation who appears hell-bent on moving football from a purpose built stadium to a totally unsuitable venue.

Announcing that this organisation would be given an NSL licence at a press conference held at a Rugby League club. Surely that should have set a few alarm bells ringing.

Shafting the people who had dug into their own pockets to keep Newcastle's NSL teams going since 1978.

Ensuring all creditors that had been extremely helpful to Newcastle's NSL team got nothing.

Agree with the first part. So sense prevailed huh? Your comment or your contacts? Have you been to Newcastle lately? Have you followed the Uknighted season? Their stadium dramas? Have you attended a game and witnessed the lack of atmosphere, and the grumblings? Have you spoken to loyal supporters?

8. As for "no due diligence on the new ownership". Absolute baloney. In fact, in contrast to the leniency they'd shown Hall/Palmer they put the bar way, way up high. Con Constantine had to immediatley cough up the $250,000 for change of ownership plus all the insurance cash etc. In the space of 24 hours he was $300,000 out of pocket. and, GET THIS, if the cheques didn't land in a day he would lose the licence and no monies he'd expended to SA would be refunded.

So you are telling us that SA's idea of due diligence consists of a couple of Rugby League supporters with no staff or players being able to fork over $300,000 within 24 hours.

Great!! Lets take up a collection and solve Canberra's and Brisbane's problems by Friday. Makes me wonder why we've been going through all this ranking bullshit for the past two years.

BTW, $300,000 was considerably less then Hall and Palmer had handed over out of their own pockets in an attempt to keep Newcastle in the NSL.

After it was all over I said Hall's biggest mistake was not setting up a new company and transferring the licence to it. Pay SA the $250,000 transfer fee and allow the old company which carried all the debts to go into liquidation. Exactly what Uknighted did. However, in my few conversations with Hall he gave me the impression he felt the right thing to do was to attempt to repay all the people that had supported Newcastle NSL football for the past twenty years. Honour and responsibility in the new millennium? What a silly bunt.

Your arguement is flawed and contradicts itself. You previously insisted Hall pay $250K for a standard change of ownership, and now you are saying that when Constantine had to pay it it was a 'raise of the bar'. Are you saying he should have got dispensation. Remember he had just saved himself $1.2m! As it turns out Constantine is believed to have tendered for the purchase of Breakers Stadium (tenders closed last week). I'd laugh my head off if Hall ends up out-tendering him! As for your stament about the cheque, well that sums up Soccer Australias' approach - show me the money, and that's as much consideration we need to make - sound a bit like the NSL re-organisation criteria to me!

9. Player entitlements. Hall had not paid the players superannuation and this is why, in part, the PFA moved against him.

Funny, the original claim was that the Breakers were supposedly paying the players wages late. When the Breakers admin came out publicly and stated the players were actually being paid in advance that complaint suddenly disappeared (without the PFA inspecting wage records despite being invited to do so) and superannuation became the issue.

Once again I ask if the other 15 clubs were up to date with superannuation payments and if not why didn't the PFA move against those clubs with similar action. Of course it came out later in the season that other clubs were also behind in their superannuation. In the Carlton case the PFA were involved in a deal which apparently involved "the writing off of a substantial superannuation debt". Perhaps your source can explain the difference in attitude?

Perhaps they can also explain how the players terminating their contracts would have resulted in the payment of the outstanding superannuation entitlements. Remembering that the players walked before Uknighted's application was supposedly considered, much less approved, perhaps your source can explain why a 20 years old would walk away from an NSL contract over a few hundred dollars in superannuation which he won't see for 40 years, two weeks before the start of a new NSL season. What chance would he have of finding another club?

No one argued that the super payments weren't in arrears, but PFA always claimed that player wages were in arrears - not the case. If you follow the press releases of the PFA for Carlton, Eastern Pride and others, you will find a distinct double standard. Some Clubs were supportered despite being 8 weeks or more in wages arrears, let alone super payments. I'd like to see what Club, or business for that matter, that doesn't use super for purposes other than intended. Not that I agee with the practice. I would applaud the PFA stance if they were equally rigoruous with all Clubs. Could it be because a key player who was involved with the players move to the new owner and thus ultimately the Breakers demise was Andy Harper - also a key PFA official?

10. At one stage of the previous season Hall had no money and approached Constantine for $20k to send team to Perth. Constantine was never repaid. So, in effect Hall was the guy who initially approached Constantine and sparked his interest.

No one has ever denied the cash flow problems at the Breakers. I agree, perhaps it proved to be a fatal mistake.

I and most others would have had no problems with Constantine becoming involved in the Breakers. Even taking over ownership if necessary. However, the current situation has succeeded in alienating many long term Newcastle Football fans.

True, but it would be a bit rude to demand repayment after you had just underhandedly removed the ability for the debt to be repaid!

Not so, Constantine was sniffing around long before then I believe. The 'NO to Marathon' signs were up long before that payment was made. Hall also put many proposals to Constantine to form a alliance for the good of the Breakers, but Constantine wanted the lot. Palmer on the other hand wanted the Breakers Club, it's history and tradition to survive, and see the consortium paid.

11. Bill Walker was elected as a Board member representing the Federations on a system which rotates that position between the Federations.


I was originally prepared to accept the decision to exclude the Breakers from the last NSL season until it was confirmed that a team was approved to play out of Marathon. This confirmed all the reports I had heard over the prior 6 months.

There are too many unanswered questions in this matter.

If you seriously believe that a team of average footballers (don't forget this also included the youth team) would walk away from a contract with an NSL club without firm guarantees of having another club to go to then I suggest that you may be a touch gullible.

How co-incidental and cosy. I suspect that nice little arrangement is about to cease.

I look forward to your sources further 'facts'. I (and no doubt Simon and others)will be delighted to get more details, and shoot some of the claims down in flames! ;o)