Can Mike Ashley be encouraged to change his approach at Newcastle United?
A lot has been said for a long time about why Mike Ashley continues at Newcastle United despite being hated by most fans and the local community.
He appears to see owning the club as a way to make money from selling on players, receiving TV money, and by getting massive worldwide free advertising for Sports Direct.
He will not move on or change as long as his business model works, and he is generally a very shrewd businessman – he didn’t get to be as rich as he is by being an idiot.
The same applies to his policy with regard to Manager / Coach, Player deals, and participation in the Cup Competitions, which is also driven by how they impact on his business model.
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Would lower attendances, boycotts, or even following another smaller local club, rather than Newcastle United, have an impact on Mr Ashley’s plans? Probably not in the short-term at least, as the main elements of his business model would not be too badly affected. What would have an affect? What can Fans do to force him to change his approach and provide some real influence without destroying the club they love?
The only thing that might work is to think in business terms, think what a business competitor might do to win the battle with a rival. Mr Ashley’s brand image is not Newcastle United, it is Sports Direct. So what might affect his commercial image that he values so much.
Staying away from games or knocking the Manager/Coach or the Owner don’t impact on his Sports Direct business image too much. Continuing to support the Team vocally, and attend games more than ever, no matter how badly the team plays, is critical if the club and team are to do well.
There is a real danger this season as about 15 points are still needed, which means winning 5 more games. Something that is not that certain the way things are at the moment, a bad run can spiral out of control, and staying in the Premiership, whatever else happens, is what all Fans want.
Mr Carver and Mr Stone are unlikely to improve the side’s performances and development plan, no matter how passionate they are, but they are going nowhere unless Mr Ashley wants them to. This doesn’t matter at the moment as a new regime, or a change of Business Plan by Mr Ashley, will sort that out eventually.
Trying to affect the Sports Direct brand and image at televised games (which is basically every game played at St James Park) might be effective. Would banners, actions, and protests that criticise Sports Direct during live TV coverage of matches have any useful effect? Boycotting the Sports Direct shops will never really take off, and products can be sold direct under different brand names, and through different outlets.
The media love a good story and they will show the crowd and banners when it suits them. Protesting is still legal in the UK, and everyone is entitled to their own opinion about Sports Direct and how the company operates. Would it be effective – it’s hard to tell but Mr Ashley probably wouldn’t be happy. Would it make him change his Business Model – probably only if it impacted on the effectiveness of his marketing and Brand Image. Perhaps he would not like to take the risk over a prolonged campaign.
Some things the club is trying to do are good and it is important for the future to have a structure and way of operating that is sustainable. Some parts of the development plan that is in place are reasonably good – it is mainly the end product of developing to sell that is the problem.
Mr Ashley is a very wealthy man, has a lot of commercial sense. If a campaign like this encourages him to change his business model towards Newcastle United, keeping this tactic safe to use another day if needed, could provide useful longer term leverage and influence.
It will be considerably easier to try and drive him to do what is best for the Club, rather than hoping to drive him out of the club completely. Returning to the rollercoaster days of repeated borrow, spend and bust cycles is not the best way forward.
Fans have to try and get the best out of the hand that is dealt.
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