Dundee United looking to expand in Australia

Former England international Emile Heskey, right, played for Newcastle Jets last season. Picture: Getty

Former England international Emile Heskey, right, played for Newcastle Jets last season. Picture: Getty

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Dundee United have confirmed they are involved in discussions with a number of Australian clubs as they seek to expand their horizons on and off the field.

Chairman Stephen Thompson has recently returned from Australia – “one of a number of countries that Dundee United is monitoring,” said a club statement – where he had talks with several clubs’ and league representatives.

It was his second visit in recent weeks and fourth this year. His presence at a Newcastle Jets game last week led to stories in the Australian press linking United with a possible takeover bid for the struggling New South Wales club.

Current owner Nathan Tinkler, a colourful mining and racing entrepreneur whose business empire has collapsed in recent times, has admitted he is desperate to sell the club, who currently sit second bottom of the ten-team Hyundai A League. Thompson watched Newcastle go down 3-1 against Wellington at their own Hunter stadium on Saturday. He has also visited other A-League teams, in Adelaide, Perth, Sydney and Western Sydney.

A statement from Dundee United seemed to avoid making specific reference to Newcastle Jets.

Instead, a United spokesperson confirmed only that the Tannadice chairman has recently returned from Australia, “where he met a number of clubs’ and league representatives as part of a wide-ranging fact finding mission”.

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It is understood Scottish Football Association rules about the ownership of two football clubs could be a potential obstacle to any such move by Thompson. The SFA board would be required to vote on the matter. The considerable geographical distance between the two clubs involved would likely be taken into account if Thompson was to take his interest further.

Unlike in the case of Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley’s potential bid to take a controlling interest in Rangers, Dundee United and Newcastle Jets do not share many common strands – Newcastle Jets operate in the Asian Football Confederation, while United come under Uefa’s auspices. They are unlikely to meet in a competitive context.

In a statement, Dundee United admitted Thompson’s visit had proved a “worthwhile insight into a league that is progressing rapidly”. Derek Robertson, a director, added: “We have been talking to a number of clubs and associations, not just in Australia but elsewhere around the world, about player tie-ups and that sort of thing. But to claim the club is ready to buy Newcastle is not correct. The matter has not been discussed by the Dundee United board.”

The club did confirm an interest in creating a partnership with another club in order to develop young talent. “Football is a global market place and as part of our aim to develop Dundee United Football Club we are continually seeking opportunities to improve on and off field,” said a Tannadice spokesperson.

“Mr Thompson’s visit to Australia provided a worthwhile insight into a league that is progressing rapidly, whose clubs are part of a growing market in world football and is home to a number of very promising young players.

“At all times the Board will act in the best interests of this club and Australia is simply one of a number of countries that Dundee United is monitoring. Our philosophy remains focused on the identification and development of the best young footballing talent available.”

Talented playmaker Ryan Gauld was sold to Portuguese giants Sporting Lisbon for

£3 million in the summer, while full-back Andrew Robertson moved to Hull City for £2.85m soon after.

Substantial profits have also been made from the sales of David Goodwillie, Johnny Russell and Scott Allan to clubs down south in recent years and now Thompson has visited a number of A-League sides with a view, at the very least, to create player development ties. But Thompson is reported to be interested in making a more significant investment.

Newcastle Jets look to be the most likely potential acquisition given their owner’s determination to sell up.

Tinkler, who relinquished control of Newcastle Knights rugby league club earlier this year, revealed in August that the football club was available for sale too.

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