“Don’t get me wrong. I did not buy Newcastle to make money. I bought Newcastle because I love football.” – Mike Ashley, BBC, 14th September 2008

Since Ashley bought the club back in 2007, he has gone on to further involve himself in various deals with Carlisle, Oldham, Portsmouth, Sheffield Wednesday and now Rangers.  A curious serious of events for a man who was already wealthy beyond most people’s comprehension and got into football for the love of it. Didn’t he?

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His love for the game, or NUFC, only appears to have extended to which retail, kit, and merchandising agreements he could tie up along with advertising rights, for Sports Direct.All four lower clubs incidentally wear Sondico, a Sports Direct own brand.

Perhaps the words of Derek Llambias can better explain what Mike Ashley has never spoken of:-

“Sports Direct has a football priority going forward and affiliation with 5 different clubs: Oldham, Sheffield Wednesday, Portsmouth, Newcastle and Rangers [Carlisle is missing]. Their model is taking over as many retail operations in football clubs and putting them ‘into the SD machine’ for ongoing retail revenues.” (Rangers Fans Board minutes 17th February 2015)

That should be simple enough to understand, even if it does contradict the few words uttered by Ashley. Surely the doubters out there can’t argue against that, can they?

So, what of NUFC? Sorry my friends, but the facts are all the more simple. Football and club success has never played a part in Ashley’s thinking, in anything other than the same retailing terms. Mike Ashley saw a market which no one else did and it fitted his domestic and European aspirations for retail dominance. NUFC was simply the first step in making that happen.

Here are some very illuminating quotes:-

“Newcastle’s owner identified the French market as offering especially good value for money and instructed him [Carr] to prioritise sourcing cross-Channel acquisitions.”(The Guardian, Jan 29th 2013)

Does Mike Ashley have hidden football knowledge that those in the professional game don’t possess? The man who previously relied on the football wisdom of Vetere, Jimenez, Llambias, Wise and Kinnear was suddenly instructing the Chief Scout where to look for players. Value? Hidden gems? Or for other reasons…

‘Last month, Sports Direct said its strategy, “…remains to expand our international retail operations into all 17 countries that have adopted the euro currency within five years. Sports Direct will step up its challenge to Decathlon’s European dominance when it opens its first Spanish store in April.

The UK’s largest sportswear retailer will open in the north-east city of Zaragoza, adding to overseas stores in France, Belgium, Portugal, Holland, Hungary, Slovenia and the Czech Republic.” (The Independent, February 3rd 2013)’

Coincidence? How about some further informed industry opinion, also from the same Independent article:-

“While there is limited overlap of both chains’ store estates currently, industry experts believe that Sports Direct and France’s Decathlon will battle each other for supremacy over the coming decade in Europe.”

Ashley’s approach to that –

“If you don’t want to play we’ll come to your country and smash you to bits.”

It’s legitimate to state that the signing of relatively cheap French players and to some extent the Dutch players (and the sole Spaniard), on Ashley’s orders is attributable to the Sports Direct expansion plan, rather than any dream of success, or love, for NUFC and football. France and Spain currently have the smallest number of his stores. What was that about more French and Spanish signings this Summer?

We are nothing more than a shop window and our players are bought with that in mind rather than their footballing prowess. I make that point because ‘the plan’ does exactly what it says on the tin.

I’ll close this article with Ashley’s own words and let you to reflect on the honesty of them.

“We look for young players, for players in foreign leagues who everyone does not know about. We try and stay ahead of the competition. We search high and low looking for value, for potential that we can bring on and for players who will allow Newcastle to compete at the very highest level but who don’t cost the earth.”

  • toastman77

    We are but one pube in fat Mike’s groin of destruction

  • David_Peel

    TeamToon just a happy coincidence then

  • prestondave

    toastman77 -Uggh, Youve just put me off me chicken dinner.

  • Brownale69

    I thought his muppet Pard said he knew nowt about football

  • Neddrs

    Excellent bit of digging. If only mainstream journalists could be as bothered with unearthing this stuff, it might make the wider world sit up and pay attention to what is going on. Personally, I loathe and detest anyone who runs a mantra of “well, it’s not illegal, so it’s ok” without considering people, human emotion, history, legacy, and so on and so forth. I’d like to think karma will one day come back to haunt Ashley. Sadly, I imagine he’ll just either pay karma off, or buy it and rebrand it as Karma Direct.

  • contactne8

    On the day Ashley bought Newcastle, Sports Direct shares were 250p each,and Ashley was worth
    around 1.3b,the shares are now worth over 700p,and Ashley is worth close to 4 billion.
    Most of that has come from the free advertising and all the publicity Sports Direct gets through
    the club.
    Ashley doesn’t want to buy Rangers,he just wants control of their marketing and retail,the same with
    Oldham and any other club he puts money into,its all about promoting Sports Direct.

  • Peter Taylor

    Tremendous article but devastating in equal measure that this our reality, a plaything of a billionaire megalomaniac !

  • MilitantGeordie

    It’s just plain greed. his plan to spread SD across the world to monopolize the retail sportswear industry says all you need to know about him. He’s already got billions in the bank but he wants more and doesn’t care who he ‘ smashes to bits’ to keep the money rolling in. Newcastle United means absolutely nothing to him other than how much money he can make with it… that much is obvious. What really pisses me off is he could spend a fraction of his wealth and the money generated by the club to put together a really strong squad but he’d rather divert our retail sales to SD, enjoy his free advertising and play a game of ‘ hide the TV cash’ every year. It’s just disgusting for one man to have so much money and not give a damn about who he hurts to get it. You never hear of him helping the homeless or giving to charity.. it’s all about expansion, profit margins shares and takeovers with the fat parasite!

  • Sickandtiredstill

    MilitantGeordie @ Peter Taylor, it’s frightening in it’s simplicity. It also makes complete sense when put that way. 
    The stupid thing in all of this is that he could achieve both things far better if he had a successful football team competing in the upper PL and Europe. 
    I doubt any one of us would begrudge Ashley/SD getting and achieving what they want if we had a football team and Club to be proud of once again. 
    Fatty could actually get back in the stands and enjoy a few pints in town if he actually respected us the way he said he did.

  • Greggy164

    All about selling Tshirts. Nothing to do with football

  • RobBrown

    Thats pretty impressive – you managed to get the same quote in 4 times before the end of the first paragraph. OK – we get it. He said he was in it for the love of the game and not the money.

    There again – that was before everybody started slagging him off, and he tried to sell – but of course, who would want a club with such toxic fans?

    THere again – he does tend to turn up at a lot of away games – interesting!

  • mentalman

    I don’t agree about the share price and his wealth going up because of free advertising at sjp. It’s more to do with the business model of sports direct selling what people want at low prices, we’ve been through a recession in that period so I would imagine most discount stores have probably seen increased profits and share prices

  • Sickandtiredstill

    mentalman I imagine it’s helped contribute, but is not the sole reason.
    Let’s not forget that while he said he wouldn’t bankroll the club, he went out and spent heavily on Debenham’s (83 million) and Tesco shares (43 million). Both stores now have mini SD concessions on their floor space.
    He also bought 11% of House of Fraser shares, but the Chinese owner is having nothing to do with him.

  • PaulNewsome

    “Here are some very illuminating quotes:-
    “Newcastle’s owner identified the French market as offering
    especially good value for money and instructed him [Carr] to prioritise
    sourcing cross-Channel acquisitions.”(The Guardian, Jan 29th 2013)”
    Whatever the truth, that isn’t an “illuminating quote”, it was Louise Taylor guessing, in writing, in a Guardian story. People confusing and conflating meaningless waffle like this with verifiable quotes is one of the banes of the modern media age.

  • DownUnderMag

    To be honest, I suspect when Ashley took over he was full of optimism and a giddy sense of living the football dream.  Then he had his fingers burned when he neglected due-diligence and found out he had a lot of extra money to spend…but took it on the chin and wrote it off the the club as a loan, so he gained a tax break and wasn’t technically out of pocket.  But he was still in with the fans, loving the life of a popular football club owner…until the Keegan saga happened and I suspect Ashley was left with a very bitter taste in his mouth.  From then on he was determined to not give anything to these “fans who abused him”…

    Ashley has made a lot of mistakes in his time here, but none more so than putting his trust in people who knew little more about football than he did.  A massive clash of ego’s between Wise and Keegan was only going to end in one thing from the fans point of view. Sadly, despite the best intentions in trying to capture the glory days feeling back, Ashley should never have brought back Keegan in the first place, there was just too much emotion tied up in it for the fans and if he wasn’t going to be backed then there was no doubting King Kev wouldn’t stick around for long.

    With relegation, Ashley felt let down again, over-paid players costing him money for under-performances.  Since then, Ashley has been content to soak up the money he can, spend as little as possible and seems to go out of his way a lot of the time to rub the fans the wrong way, almost intentionally winding them up with things like a stadium name change and abandoning reputable shirt sponsors and manufacturers to lower tier sports companies and dodgy advertising.

    How different life may have been at NUFC had we hadn’t seen Keegan back at the club.  How different things may have been should we have stayed up that fateful season.   How different it would be if Ashley didn’t seem to be holding a grudge against the club and it’s fans for what for the most part was errors in judgement and naivety on the owners behalf.

  • jimblag

    DownUnderMag I think it’s naive to believe Ashley didn’t know the extent of our debt, he saw an opportunity to make money and maybe have some fun in the process. 
    However the fun didn’t last long after it all went tits up after the Keegan fiasco. 
    It’s all worked out so well financially for Ashley at Newcastle, I find it hard to believe he’s just reacting to each unforeseen incident and making a killing in the process. – See more at: //www.themag.co.uk/2015/02/mike-ashley-didnt-buy-newcastle-make-money/#sthash.j7Cta5VA.dpuf

  • Greekgeordie

    I agree that Ashley’s primary concern is SD but to suggest that he built up the business based on Newcastle football club is pathetic, a visit of any of his shops outside the North East and you discover that there is nothing in there to be remotely connected with Newcastle.
    And if you think that a Frenchman, Dutchman or Spanish will choose SD shops to by whatever he wants will be because The Newcastle football club has players from his homeland then nativity is a mild way to justify such thinking.
    Ashley bought Newcastle as a hobby and it is still a hobby, and it is about time that we realise that outside the North East most people will not connect the two business.

  • newcastle7

    Mike Ashley has not made a penny out of Newcastle United and lent them one hundred and forty million pounds in the hour of need of which only eleven million has been repaid.How many of his critics would buy the club for one hundred and thirty five million then lend it one hundred and forty million to keep it a float and not take a penny in wages.Wake up and thank Mike for being our saviour.

  • radgiegadgie

    Greekgeordie totally agree, some people just try to find ever more idiotic ways to have a go at the owner.

    He’s not particularly good or bad as owners go.

  • radgiegadgie

    jimblag DownUnderMag would he not have got a better return investing 200 odd mill on his retail expansion in Europe?

  • LeazesEnder

    radgiegadgie Greekgeordie idiot

  • Stonesy

    Does all the TV money and unspent player/manager sales money disappearing into a black hole, while we “enjoy” watching our zombie club being overtaken by one smaller club after another, not count as repayments? If not, could it be classed as a wage? And as for being saved…from what? Thanks Mike.

  • Stonesy

    He’s particularly bad if you harbour any hope of enjoying supporting your team.

  • toon tony


  • Nicolaus Copernicus

    I agree with the overarching sentiment of the bloggers on this article, that Ashley probably did buy NUFC more for fun than profit, but the bitter taste left in his mouth from the fans’ backlash over Keegan’s departure has hardened him and, by degrees, he has shifted his stance right to the other end of the spectrum and now sees us solely as a business operation.

  • Sickandtiredstill

    Greekgeordie  Sure. No one ever buys anything because of advertising do they? Ashley and SD obviously believe otherwise and their business success indicates that.
    Maybe your right, mate. He’s involved with all those clubs because he just loves football.
    That’s much more believable is it?

  • Sickandtiredstill

    Nicolaus Copernicus Still have to ask yourself why he immediately gave the retail operation to SD as well as the ground advertising – and of course the whole ground naming fiasco.
    That wasn’t for fun, it was for the benefit of SD.

  • Sickandtiredstill

    newcastle7 He lent ‘them’? 
    Well, Simon, in idiots terms – he owns the Club and everything associated with it doesn’t he?. So he lent himself the money, didn’t he? What part of that do you have trouble understanding?

  • Sickandtiredstill

    radgiegadgie jimblag DownUnderMag  That’s what he has already done. SD are in 19 euro countries.
    They have problems trying to break Decathlons (French company) market hold which is it’s largest remaining competitor.
    That is what the article here relates to I believe.

  • DownUnderMag

    radgiegadgie jimblag DownUnderMag The problem is we are not talking about a big name sports company here, we aren’t in the realm of Nike or even Adidas here.  To those companies, it is important for them to be associated with success, their brand depends on it.  Ashley and SD are only interested in lowest common denominator marketing, cheap goods to those who don’t care as long as they can keep some money in their back pocket to spend on drink, smokes and probably some drugs.  Brand integrity is the least of their concerns, they aren’t aiming at people who will not buy their goods based upon it not being associated with a success story.  If we were owned by a buisnessman who made a lot of money off more expensive/exclusive merchandise who needed to provide a good identity, i.e. you are buying into an image and a label, then it might be different and writing off a few million to make a bigger label association would be fine, but Ashley doesn’t care.  All he cares for is the free advertising, huge TV money and if he can get both of those with investing as little as possible then even better.

  • newcastle7

    Sickandtiredstill newcastle7 You will see that when the accounts come out
    that in the long term liabilities is a loan for £129m.What would rather have the loan owed to Mike Ashley interest free or the loan owed Barclays with a charge of over £15m per year in the profit and loss account.Mike Ashley has save us nearly one hundred million in interest during his tenure so for that I thank him very much.

  • Sickandtiredstill

    newcastle7 Sickandtiredstill Once again, there is no ‘us’.

    Ashley saved Ashley from paying interest. He replaced Barclays finance with MASH finance. Not saying that’s all bad but it certainly doesn’t make him a saviour.

  • Greekgeordie

    Good angle to look at SD, but I rather have my kids looking for a track suit in SD than pay well above the odds, on a name brand. Snob is the word, and it think your opinion that who Evers shops at SD spends the save cash on drinks and drugs, lower your comments to a very unacceptable level.