We continue to await developments on whether a second bid from PCP will be submitted this week. With Ashley, I think all NUFC fans have learnt to not second guess his intentions, but this time it does feel like the end of his tenure could finally be on the horizon.
We have seen failed attempts to sell the club before of course, so what may force Ashley’s hand this time?
1. What’s in it for him to stay?
He admitted himself just a few months ago to his favourite broadcaster, Sky Sports, he “doesn’t have the wealth to compete”. The irritating part of the statement was he was referring to the Manchester City, when in reality, his investment in NUFC transfer wise last summer was dwarfed by the likes of Bournemouth, Watford and Huddersfield. With one of those teams also coming up with us, the argument of not having the TV money yet just doesn’t wash.
Ashley has been frugal in his ten years at the club but the lack of investment has reached a new low – a bad mix when the ambitious Rafa Benitez is at the helm.
Rafa has warned him that another relegation would be at risk if he continues to be given such limited funds. Now is the ideal time to sell up – at a profit too.
2. The backlash if he stayed…
Anger towards him would be nothing new, let’s face it. Selling Carroll on deadline day and replacing him with Kuqi, or re-naming the stadium spring to mind, let alone the two relegations. He has been universally disliked up here from a long time and in the main, deservedly so.
But if he were to fail to sell, it is likely the end of Rafa Benitez – a man who has finally captured the imagination of fans again. I think if Rafa left and we were left with Ashley, it would be the final straw for a lot of fans. Ashley notoriously doesn’t have his ear to the ground up here, but even he must now it would turn toxic, and quickly.
All this would increase the odds of relegation and decrease the value of his asset.
3. A serious buyer has finally emerged
Ashley has tried to sell before and the only real attempt to buy the club was by Barry Moat in 2009, who offered £100m. You never felt the takeover was a reality though and Ashley even famously left an email for interested parties with Sky Sports for interested parties to contact.
Other attempts to sell before led to vague rumours of interest from Asia but nothing really materialised. With PCP, we have a clear buyer who has funds and a track record in football. They have also mentioned the Christmas timeframe too to create some urgency. It helps that PCP appear to be the type of owner fans would love; ambitious, willing to invest and with football knowledge/interests.
4. The HMRC case is still looming
It has all went quiet on this one but Ashley will know a large fine or even points deductions are a possibility. As long as he gets the fee he wants, why not sell and let it be someone else’s problem? It doesn’t help the fans of course and he has again let us down by getting us in the mess under his watch, however, it’s another reason for him to head towards the exit door.
5.If he doesn’t he is likely to have to invest again in January
The Christmas deadline is set from both parties with January in mind. Both accept it is necessary to invest in January for us to stay up/push on – with survival key on so many levels, but especially for owners due to the HUGE sums of cash now distributed from the TV deals.
The levels of investment will of course differ if it is PCP or Ashley, but if he stays he will have to invest some money for players. He can’t afford to risk our Premier League safety, and if he failed to invest, he’d be doing exactly that.
Relegation, or even the risk of it, would mean NUFC may lose real financial value and could quite possibly scaring off buyers once again.
It’s rarely been in Ashley’s interests to improve the squad and keep the manager sweet, but it’s now in his interests to have us in the best position possible ahead of a sale. If a sale isn’t completed by January, he’d be reckless not to spend money to protect the asset (NUFC) he clearly wants to sell for as much as possible.
If he sells now it is a cost he will not have – and again something he can leave to PCP.
Are you hopeful of a sale before Christmas? Or a sale at all?
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