Thursday, October 22, 2020

Mike Ashley – The man who destroyed Newcastle United

Mike Ashley is a business mogul who made his fortune through his ownership of controversial sports clothing company, Sports Direct. He is perhaps most well known in the world of sport for his ownership of Newcastle United – but it’s fair to say he isn’t exactly a favourite on Tyneside.

Why do the Newcastle fans hate Mike Ashley so much?

The simple answer to that question is because he has ruined their club. There have been six relegation’s in the entirety of Newcastle’s 127 year history – Ashley has presided over two of them and the club are potentially facing another this season. Why is this happening? What is Ashley doing so wrong? I’ve got one word for you, INVESTMENT.

There simply hasn’t been enough of it. Despite the fact Newcastle finished in the top half last season and earned £125 million in television money, they still had a net spend of -£21 million in the summer window. There doesn’t seem to be any investment likely this month either as the tumbleweeds continue to bounce through Lee Charnley’s office. In fact, the club’s net spend in total from eleven years of Ashley is a measly £32 million.

Newcastle haven’t even broken their transfer record whilst Ashley has been in the Chairman’s seat. Their transfer record is still the £18 million paid for the signature of Michael Owen way back in 2005. Every other Premier League club has broken their record signing since then. Every single one.

As well as the lack of investment, Ashley has continuously used the club for his own personal gain. If you look at St James’ Park, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a Sports Direct factory with the amount of branding around the ground. Do you know how much Ashley has paid to the club for that advertising? Nothing -not a damn thing.

You may say, “well he’s the owner, his finances and the club’s finances are the same thing aren’t they?” Well you’d be wrong. Even when he has “invested” in the club, it’s only been through the medium of loans. The club currently has no external debt, but it owes Mike Ashley £144 million in loan repayments. This is after he took over the club and told everyone they didn’t have any debt to worry about.

Mike Ashley has been "trying" to sell Newcastle for years
Mike Ashley has been “trying” to sell Newcastle for years

This has been one of the sticking points of the potential sale of the club too. He says he wants to sell the club, but he wants to recoup not only the money he paid for the club, but the money he has put into the club. As a result, the price he is asking for is so ridiculously high it makes you wonder whether he even wants to sell the club at all.

On top of all of that, season ticket prices have risen by up to £189, the club have managed just three top half finished in eleven years, there’s been no investment in the training ground, the club haven’t managed to get past the FA Cup 5th round, the club have paid £5.2 Million TO Sports Direct, they’ve lost two legal battles with former staff and there’s a pending HMRC investigation hanging over the club. Oh, and they’ve gone from having the third biggest ground in England to the seventh.

The lack of investment is made so much worse for fans when they look at their phones and see their owner repeatedly bailing high street shops out of administration. Yesterday he sunk millions into HMV to save them from going bust. Just before Christmas he did the same thing at House of Fraser – it must be so damn frustrating to see that your owner has the money you need but is just simply choosing not to spend it.

So if you’re still unsure why the Geordie faithful hate their owner – there’s your answer.

The “Takeover”

As I referred to earlier, Newcastle United is still “For Sale”. What many of you may not know is that it’s been up for sale since 2009. There have been many reported “takeover” attempts with the most ridiculous being WWE Chairman Vince McMahon. The most recent one is from former Chelsea CEO Peter Kenyon – but unsurprisingly, it seems to be fizzling out.

If you ask some sections of the Newcastle support, they’ll tell you that there never even was a takeover bid. They’ll tell you it was all a ploy to justify not spending any money in January. That claim is made more credible when you consider there was an almost identical takeover rumour last season too. Amanda Staveley’s failed attempts to buy Newcastle came at a suspiciously similar time in the season to Peter Kenyon’s did – they also fizzled out in exactly same way Peter Kenyon’s seem to be.

They may very well all be wearing tin foil hats and questioning the lunar landings but you can’t deny there are some questionable correlations there. Given the history Ashley has on Tyneside, it’s hardly an unlikely situation either.

When all is said and done, if Mike Ashley is serious about selling the club, he needs to reduce the asking price. That’s the only way the he’s going to get what he says he wants, an end to his and Newcastle’s time together.

What’s next?

Newcastle picked up a much needed win on Saturday when they hammered Cardiff 3-0 at St James’, but you can’t help but feel that’s just papering over the cracks. With Jonjo Shelvey and Mo Diame out injured and Ki Seung-Yeung at the Asia Cup, Rafael Benitez has been forced to play youngster Sean Longstaff for the whole 90 minutes three times in the last week.

The investment is so desperately needed – six of Newcastle’s starting XI on Saturday were with the club when they won the Championship two seasons ago. If that doesn’t highlight the sheer refusal to spend money then I honestly don’t know what will.

Newcastle face Watford in the FA Cup next weekend before a trip to Spurs and then a home game against champions, Manchester City.

In the meantime, if you want to buy and sporting goods and you’re considering using Sports Direct – then let me direct you here instead:

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