The community ownership proposal to anchor the Newcastle Knights in the Hunter has won a powerful ally.
The mayor of Port Stephens, Cr Bruce MacKenzie, has endorsed the Our Knights, One Chance campaign to raise $40 million or more.
“The Knights, at their strongest, are a great community asset and have a unique ability to bring the region together and lift spirits,” Mr Mackenzie said.
The statement released this week likened the battle for the Knights to the council merger fights and even the ban on greyhound racing – vital to the region’s “identity”.
“There are many Port Stephens residents who are passionate fans of the Newcastle Knights and the opportunity to own shares in the club is one I’m sure they would embrace.”
The community ownership was launched on December 9 last year with a focus on taking responsibility for the Knights and providing a stable, long-term future.
Fairfax Media’s Newcastle Herald pledged $50,000 soon after the launch.
But Cr MacKenzie pumped the brakes when asked if he would back the plan financially.
“It’s a statement of support, not financial support,” he said.
“Port Stephens ratepayers won’t be putting money into it through council.
“Personally, it’s a good idea and if anyone wants to buy a $500 share they’re welcome to.”
The group of Novocastrians who formulated the ownership model have NRL and business experience, but also “understand the power of this community”.
It’s said the model would place the Knights financially into the top six NRL clubs.
The promoters want the NRL to know the model would be sustainable. For the initiative to move forward, people must “demonstrate their support”.
Registrations are open at the Our Knights website.
Organisers have set the bar at 20,000 individuals and businesses to convince the NRL which owns the franchise.
Other regional mayors have also come out in support of the Knights community ownership model including those from Tamworth, Gunnedah, Upper Hunter, Maitland, Dungog and Lake Macquarie.