Just take a look at your local street next time you are out. Where once there may have been a butcher or a baker, there will now be a pay day lender or a shop offering sofas and cookers on sky-high interest rates.
And now you can’t even escape the hard sell when you go to a football game. Wonga has paid Newcastle £23 million to be able to plaster team shirts with their logo.
Newcastle is not the first to succumb – Hearts and Blackpool took the shilling before. But Newcastle is the biggest name by far. It is a byword for passionate fans and team loved by its city. Its good name ought not be sullied by pay day loan sharks preying on hard-pressed people, but the board sadly thinks otherwise.
Unite has been campaigning to cap Wonga-style credit rates of 4200 percent because people tell us that these drown them in debt. What starts off as a short-term loan soon becomes a snare, with the average worker borrowing £325 a month to get by.
The small loan to bridge the gap between the rising living costs and shrinking wages ends up a treadmill of borrowing more to pay off the original loan. Our research tells us that someone will have to work three days a month just to pay off their loan. Small wonder they have to borrow again and again. They are not borrowing for high spec tvs or luxury breaks but for food, mortgages, money to get by.
But this is not what Wonga wants you to believe. They want to seduce with how `easy’ it is to borrow, never mentioning the danger of the debt trap.
That is why the Newcastle’s pact with Wonga is so dangerous. It normalises something that ought to be ringing alarm bells – extortionate rates of credit. And this is why Unite and the TUC in our region are calling on Mike Ashley to think again.
Newcastle’s fans deserve better than for their passion and good name to be used to peddle debt. The return of St James’ Park is scant comfort – won’t it always be the name known to fans?
In October, a No 10 adviser went to work for Wonga. The prime minister takes advice on how to slash workers’ rights from the venture capitalist who funded Wonga, Adrian Beecroft. To Unite, these links are nothing short of shady, which is why we want an inquiry. Mike Ashley and the Newcastle board, the latest to put the interests of big business before the interests of people, should take heed.
In the north east, times are tough enough for people but we have our pride. So take a stand. Don’t let your club’s gilded name become tarnished. Join the fight to see the Wonga sharks off from our communities.
If you think Wonga’s cash is dirty money, then complain. Write to the Mag or use the club’s official Facebook and Twitter pages to speak out
Karen Reay – Unite regional secretary
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