STATEMENT: Our Knights One Chance facilitator Rob Tew says the community-ownership campaign has been suspended. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
Nanjing Night Net

OUR Knights One Chance organisers hope there is still a possibility forpartial community-ownership if the Wests Group take control of Newcastle’s NRL franchise.

There was speculation on Wednesday that the NRL and Wests had struck a deal to hand over the Knights, who have been fundedby the governing body since the demise of former owner Nathan Tinkler in June, 2014.

The report said an announcement might be made this week, although that would contradict comments from Wests chairman Owen Kilpatrick, who told the Newcastle Herald on Monday:“It’s still a work in progress. We’re certainly not close to getting any deal done.”

The Our Knights campaign was launched in December in the hope of raising $20 million to buy the Knights by selling 40,000shareholdings at $500 apiece.

In a statement on Wednesday,Our Knights facilitator Rob Tew said he understoodthe Wests takeover would proceed but was hopeful there would be a community-ownership component.

“It appears the Wests Group has reached agreement with the NRL for Wests to take control of the ownership of the Knights,’’ Tew’s statement read.

ROB TEW

“The Our Knights facilitators are excited that it appears the Knights will continue to have a future in this region.

“This was the reason we commenced our campaign back in November, when there was a risk that the licence may shift from the region in the absence of a local buyer at that time.

“As you are aware, we are supportive of community ownership of the Knights however, we understand that the NRL’s preference was to negotiate with Wests as a consequence of Wests’ history of success, operational scale and asset backing and we have respected the NRL’s decision in undertaking those negotiations.

“For this reason, we had suspended our campaign whilst those negotiations were under way.

“At this point we don’t know what ownership structure is being proposed by Wests. It is Wests’ prerogative should they wish to offer a community shareholding in the Knights.

“We certainly hope they do as we have always been of the belief that a community shareholding in the Knights would benefit the club.

“We look forward to gaining a better understanding of what has been agreed and what is being proposed.”

Wests’ commitment of $10 million towards a proposed rugby league centre of excellence, which, if approved, would be matched dollar for dollar by the state government,was seen as a statement of intent.

If the Wests board endorses the deal tabled by the NRL, the group’s 125,000 members would be asked to ratify or reject the proposal.

BOWING OUT: Rob Tew’s full post.

ON HOLD: Our Knights facilitators Mike Rabbitt, Rob Tew, Marty Adnum, Andrew Poole, John Duncan, Nick Dan and Michael Neilson announced their campaign in December. Picture: Simone De Peak