Firepower puts Force in a spin

The controversial fuel technology company Firepower, appears on the verge of collapse, with its offices abandoned in Perth and other parts of the world, and the company owing millions of dollars to rugby union players, the Western Force club, basketballers and other creditors.

Several Western Force players, including their highest-paid player, Matt Giteau, are reconsidering their contracts with the Perth-based Super-14 franchise after not being paid by Firepower this year.

The club, too, is still owed hundreds of thousands of dollars for its Firepower jersey sponsorship.

Western Force’s chief executive, Greg Harris, told the Herald newspaper that if the Firepower money was not paid it ”would have a significant effect on the financial bottom line of the franchise but would not cause major distress”.

The Herald understands the money owed to the Western Force and its

players tallies well into several million dollars. This comes as another Firepower-related entity, the Sydney Kings basketball team, Tuesday made outstanding contract payments to the former Kings captain Jason Smith. It faced a tight deadline of having its licence revoked by the National Basketball League.

The Sydney Kings owner, Tim Johnston, is the chairperson of Firepower, which is also the main sponsor of the Kings.

But most of this month’s basketball player payments, due on May 16, have still not been paid.

The Australian Taxation Office is currently investigating delayed superannuation payments to players. Giteau could be owed more than $500 000.

Harris said he was facilitating urgent negotiations to recover and replace some of the Firepower money to keep faith with the Force players.

”At the moment some players are in discussions with various parties to ensure that if there are any shortcomings from Firepower obligations they are as best fulfilled as possible,” he said.

A substantial proportion of Giteau’s three-year $4,5-million contract is tied up in Firepower payments, while most of the other Firepower-linked players, including potential Wallaby squad members Drew Mitchell, Ryan Cross and Cameron Shepherd are owed more than $100 000 each. Scott Staniforth is also owed money but another Firepower-linked player, Scott Fava, had his Firepower sponsorship withdrawn in the fallout from the quokka controversy just before

Christmas.

Giteau’s manager, Chris Orr, said he had written to Firepower asking for clarification. – Sapa

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