Here at NUFC Blog, we like most if not all Newcastle fans have been utterly bewildered by the lack of investment this summer by Mike Ashley and his letter to Chi Onwurah, in response to the recent parliamentary petition, is a new low and a further web of lies, deceit and utter contempt for the fans of Newcastle United.
Let’s unpick some of the ridiculous claims Ashley has made in the letter leaked last night:
“I was therefore disappointed that, to the best of my knowledge, Ms Onwurah made no attempt, in advance of presenting the petition, to contact or engage with me, or anybody at Newcastle United.”
Even this at the very start of the letter is a total lie. MP Onwurha confirmed today she requested several meetings with Ashley since 2013 and all of which were rejected. There are even emails circulating on social media proving this. Ashley doesn’t speak to the fans, any journalists or focus groups – only a bi-annual Q+A with a scripted SKY presenter. He is only responding now as he is concerned his other business interests will suffer from this publicity, not because he has any concern for Newcastle United or its fans.
“As owner of Newcastle United, I have provided the club with interest-free loans, the outstanding balance of which as at today’s date is £144million, whilst I also cleared all of its third-party debts, which stood at £76m in 2006/07 and incurred finance costs of £6.5m that existed when I purchased the club.”
This confirms we are actually in more debt now than when he bought the club, £61.5m more. This is due to his appalling running of the club on the field, ensuring two relegations which had big financial consequences. This level of debt may be interest free but he wants it paid back and is one of the reasons we are stuck with him, as it drives up the asking price and scares off potential buyers.
“This enabled Newcastle United to establish an affordable ticket-pricing policy for fans. This includes a number of season-ticket prize-freeze schemes, which allows over 20,000 supporters to secure their ticket at a significantly-reduced rate every season.”
Ticket prices have been increased this season, over 20% in most cases. This puts us as one of the most expensive out of the top six but with the lowest net spend in transfers on the field. Add this to the fact shirt prices increased too to place our shirts at a higher cost than far bigger brands like Man Utd and Liverpool, really does highlight how little regard Ashley has for the fans of NUFC.
“We operate numerous community-engagement programmes through our Foundation, who met with your predecessor Matt Hancock MP earlier this summer to discuss our work. I enclose below a link to the Foundation’s most-recent annual report for your information.”
Having worked at the foundation myself between 2010-2012, I know first hand their were many redundancies at the Foundation as funding from the club was often cut.
Ashley has shown no regard for the community of the North East during his 11 years owing NUFC. There is no communication with fans, no investment in the local academy and little support in local initiatives like the Newcastle Food Bank.
“Our training facilities have improved significantly during my tenure. They are fit for purpose and very clearly do not have a negative impact on performance, given we secured a place within the top 10 of the Premier League last season.”
There has been next to investment in our training facilities, culminating with us at one point losing our Level 2 academy status, unheard of for Premier League level.
Benitez has openly criticised quite rightly our outdated facilities, which if updated, could help us attract better players to the club as we battle with the preference for players to move to London.
Looking at the plans at other sides like Leicester and the investment in this area, it is demoralising that Ashley will to invest when planning was granted over a decade ago by Newcastle Council to build a training ground to compete at the top level. Even Sunderland and Middlesbrough have better training grounds than us…
“Furthermore, my continued financial support, the huge contribution of the world-class manager we retained, together with the fantastic efforts of our players and staff, enabled the club to swiftly recover from relegation in 2017. This contrasts starkly with the experiences of clubs such as Aston Villa and Sunderland, and, less recently, Leeds United and Nottingham Forest.”
After saying he could not and will not, compete with sides like Man.City (fans never expected we do) he is now using sides that, in Leeds and Forest’s cases, have not actually played in the top flight since he bought the club. Newcastle were comfortably in the top 20 clubs in Europe for turnover when he bought the club and in the seven years prior to his purchase had been in the Champions League twice and the Uefa Cup twice too. To compare us to Forest and hold up promotion as some form of success, when it has been Ashley’s horrendous ownership that got us relegated in the first place, is embarrassing.
“Following publication of the petition, an unprecedented volume of unacceptable abuse was directed towards staff at Sports Direct and its associated companies, via social media, email and telephone. This included digital material of an obscene nature, incitement to commit criminal damage, and language that was clearly intended to intimidate and harass staff.”
The final quote is perhaps the most farcical of them all. While of course we would never condone abuse, it is laughable that Ashley is trying to protect Sport Direct staff here.
Let’s remember the company and his awful staff conditions were so bad a Panorama show went undercover to discover;
- Ashley forced to pay back £1m in unpaid staff wages (sound familiar with the current squad bonus issue?)
- 76 ambulances called to Sports Direct Warehouse in under 2 years
- Labelled the most unethical comapny in the FTSE 350
- Staff members sacked for being off sick for 2 weeks
- Making staff work for free if they wanted shifts the following week
So, don’t play the staff welfare card Mike; he is rattled as fans are now affecting his Sports Direct profit levels, not the people.
To publish such a letter, full of total lies and manipulation, is baffling and needs addressed. Ashley is so out of touch with Newcastle fans and doesn’t understand this type of response will only add fuel to flames of the protests planned. With two days left to do deals, which more than likely, will still ensure we end the window with another net profit, something has to give this time.
As Ms Onwurah brilliantly put it in the commons today in her response, this letter does not address any of the concerns or issues at Newcastle United. Ashley is the issue and we need to drive him out.