The Mike Ashley PR campaign is admirable in terms of just how outrageous it is.
The Chronicle confirmed that Rafa Benitez hasn’t talked to Mike Ashley since May and yet only 48 hours before the season kicks off, after summer months where he has hung Rafa out to dry, Newcastle United’s owner decides to time quotes that batter manager and fans alike.
When we turn up on Sunday for the Spurs game, I fully expect there to be new Sports Direct banners at every turnstile, proclaiming ‘Abandon hope all ye who enter here’. Maybe to complement fans finding out that Sports Direct is the (non-paying) shirt sleeve sponsor…?
It was Adolf Hitler who was credited with coming up with the propaganda belief of ‘If you are going to lie, make it a big one’.
The Mike Ashley quotes released today, show that he and his PR people think you can fool enough of the people, enough of the time.
Ashley talks of Newcastle not being able to compete because they don’t have a £40m a year stadium rights deal, that competing with clubs effectively owned by ‘countries’ is impossible, that he can’t just ‘write a cheque for £200m’.
How many clubs in the Premier League are owned by countries and/or get £40m a year from stadium naming rights?
There might be one or two but I can guarantee that none of them will be clubs that Newcastle fans hope/expect to be competing with in the short to medium-term.
It is laughable really.
However, a certain sector of the media, including Sky Sports who work with Ashley when it comes to this type of thing, will report the quotes without any kind of critical analysis. Sadly as well, a number of Newcastle fans will also be gullible enough to want to believe the Mike Ashley PR offensive, as though this is some part of reasonable way of running a football club.
What exactly sabotaging even Rafa free transfer and loan deals, has to do with cheques for £200m and the clubs run by countries, is anybody’s guess.
This is simply yet another disastrous Mike Ashley gamble, or should I say, a double gamble.
Can Newcastle survive this season in the Premier League on a net spend of £17m (so far)? Then the second part of the gamble which sees Ashley testing Rafa Benitez on how far he can push him without the respected manager saying enough is enough.
Rafa Benitez never expected to be handed £150m or £200 BUT he did expect to be allowed to bring in players in January and then have the ability to bring in players this summer who would clearly improve the starting eleven.
Mike Ashley, and Mike Ashley alone, has pulled the plug, to blame Lee Charnley is like ringing up a call centre to complain when your gas & electric supplier puts their prices up.
Ashley says he doesn’t have access to significant amounts of cash but that is laughable, whenever he wants to speculate in a part of his retail (and property etc etc) empire then he finds the cash.
Two years ago, The Telegraph (see below) reported that Mike Ashley had personally funded a property deal in London to the tune of £200m. Saying he did it through his personal holding company ‘Mash Holdings’, which Newcastle United is a part of and which includes his shareholdings in various companies, including the 100% of NUFC.
Huddersfield are outspending Newcastle this summer almost certainly by using some of the cash they will be receiving this season due to participation in the Premier League, the club relying on their owner(s) putting the cash up in advance, or loaning it through normal commercial means – they won’t be alone in doing this.
Mike Ashley could do the same using either route, by raising cash himself or using his financial muscle to loan the money at preferential commercial rates for Newcastle United.
Or what about something even more radical, such as Sports Direct actually paying for the massive free promotion they get from NUFC.
People don’t quite realise just how valuable this is, it doesn’t just equate to a ‘few’ advertising hoardings at St James Park.
Every signing sees photographers having to use a backdrop including Sports Direct, any footage taken at the training ground has SD at its most prominent, not forgetting Rafa and his players were sent to do a promotional visit at a Sports Direct store in Dublin during pre-season.
In 2016 the club announced that Sports Direct would start paying a market rate for these previously free services, only to then seemingly indicate earlier this year (April 2017) that this is not now going to happen.
Most rich owners desperately strive to get more money into their clubs, Mike Ashley does everything to starve Newcastle United of funds.
Imagine if Sports Direct paid £10m/£15m this summer for the services NUFC will supply this season, enough to then buy Lucas Perez or some other striker who might score goals as well as Dwight Gayle?
Even more radical, just imagine backdating that for the previous 10 years and also chuck in something for when Ashley renamed St James Park the SD Arena for nothing (to the club).
Football is a business as we are often reminded and as Mike Ashley fully knows, businesses at times need investment at the start/a certain point to get things going. Newcastle United are no different, the squad needs urgently strengthened now, then in a year’s time it may need a lesser amount spent to build on that.
Gambling on Newcastle maybe just staying up and then thinking that at least if they don’t he will have money then to fund another promotion campaign, isn’t how he runs the rest of his business empire.
Newcastle United desperately need an owner who is ambitious for the club to succeed on the pitch, with a long-term plan of how this can be funded, with a skilled person relied on to implement that plan and spend the cash wisely.
Needless to say, we have one of those three in place but clearly no chance of the other two happening any time soon/ever.
With these quotes today we surely now can have no doubts that Mike Ashley is actually enjoying this, all of these people (Newcastle fans) who caused him grief and embarrassment and now he is loving the fact that he’s taken them to a point where it looked better times ahead, only to then open the trapdoor.
Mike Ashley – 11 August 2017:
“It’s Newcastle United, it does not have a £40m a year stadium naming rights deal.
“I don’t want fans to watch this and think that’s great he’s getting £150million in the morning, he is not.
“I’m nowhere near wealthy enough to compete with clubs like Manchester City.
“I don’t have the ability to write a cheque for £200m.
“In theory I’m a multi-billionaire but in reality my wealth is like wallpaper, it is all in Sports Direct shares.
“I don’t have that cash in the bank.
“People on the outside looking in, think in wealth terms those funds are in the bank.
“They’re not. I am nowhere near wealthy enough.
“Basically, it’s a wealthy individual taking on what is the equivalent of countries. I cannot and I will not.
“Rafa makes all the final decisions, Lee answers to Rafa, we are crystal clear.
“He (Rafa) makes decisions on players out, players in – but he has to do it with the money the club have.”
The Telegraph – 19 April 2015:
‘Mike Ashley has moved into London’s luxury property market by backing a deal to redevelop a storage depot in west London.
The Sports Direct founder is understood to have funded a £200m deal to buy the Clearings in west London from department store chain John Lewis.
The Clearings is a storage depot in the heart Chelsea, but the site has planning permission for a luxury residential development comprising of 62 flats and seven townhouses.
The site has been bought by property developers Citygrove and McLaren. By providing the funding for the deal, Mr Ashley is in line to bank hundreds of millions of pounds from a development that could be worth £900m when it is finished.
Mr Ashley is thought to have backed the deal through his holding company Mash Holdings.
The latest results at Companies House show profits for Mash Holdings more than doubled from £256m to £543m in the year to April 30, 2014.
This surge in profits was driven by Mr Ashley selling down his majority stake in Sports Direct. The accounts for Mash Holdings show Mr Ashley, who also owns Newcastle United, raised £283m by selling off shares in the FTSE 100 high street retailer.’