During the crisis that has been NUFC’s 2014/2015 season, one thing that has baffled and perplexed me, is that the entire onus on trying to get things sorted out has fallen on the shoulders of the Newcastle fans.

Despite there being plenty of evidence and actions which one would have thought would at least raise the eyebrows (I’m not asking much!) of the media and the regulators of our sport, there has been precious little interest (until very recently) and no intervention at all from “the custodians of the game” despite the ongoing horror show at St James.

Therefore, I hereby set out in black and white, for the benefit of all Newcastle fans as well as the club and anyone else who may be interested, just how alone we are and how (in my opinion) the national regulatory body is in contempt of its own criteria, since the FA’s stated goals and priorities include to:

  • Govern the game effectively
  • Provide a safe and fun experience for football
  • It is further stated that “The integrity of football relies on quick, consistent and sensible decisions. This is particularly true in England’s professional game where those decisions are scrutinised all over the world. Clubs, fans, players and managers all want the right decisions to be made according to the rules they have agreed to play by” and
  • “The game in England is sustained by a huge range of football fans, from players to referees and club supporters to parents. We need to communicate effectively with everyone with an interest in the game”.

What is interesting by the way, from a cursory inspection of the FA’s rules, regulations and aims, is the distinct lack of statements such as:

  • To ensure the proper management of football clubs playing in England;
  • To ensure that clubs are run in the spirit of the game of football, i.e. that clubs should use their resources to try and succeed (in football);
  • To ensure that clubs do not ignore their fans or their fans’ interests;
  • To ensure that commercial and footballing interests are balanced appropriately.

So, given that these last 4 ambitions appear to be very sadly outside of the FA’s own stated remit, (and their absence should I think be the subject for a separate though rather important discussion), I recently wrote to the FA to question their inactivity with regards to NUFC and the growing deficiencies of the club and its owner.

the fa

I asked them whether they were satisfied that their inaction is appropriate, that their lack of intervention (of any kind) is suitable given the various transgressions or inappropriate activities which have been described relating to NUFC. The examples referred to included the following.

  1. The owner admitted to an employment tribunal that he repeatedly and intentionally lied to and misled the press, public and the fans of Newcastle United, but the FA did nothing.
  2. Mike Ashley was fined by the SFA for a rules breach in relation to dual interest in Rangers and NUFC, but the English FA did nothing.
  3. The properly constituted fans’ Supporters Trust was banned by the owner from partaking at its Fan’s Forum meetings for trumped up and disproportionate reasons, but the FA did nothing.
  4. In Scotland, the owner has been exposed by a Parliamentary Committee, accusing him of unacceptable behaviour, and yet the FA has done nothing.
  5. The owner was found guilty at an English court of law of constructively dismissing its manager, a former England Manager, and yet the FA said and did nothing.
  6. The owner has seen his Newcastle side knocked out of the FA cup by Stoke, Hull, West Brom, Stevenage, Brighton, Cardiff and Leicester and has apparently said to various senior people, who have reported it informally, that he does not want NUFC to succeed in cup competitions as it may threaten league survival – hence it could be, (and has been) argued, that NUFC is distorting the FA Cup, for example, by effectively throwing games. However, the FA has done nothing.
  7. The owner removed the St James’ Park name (after saying that he would not) and replaced it with that of his shop, with no fan dialogue and against the wishes of said fans.
  8. The owner apparently pays nothing to advertise any of his various brands at St James Park. The potential income achievable for our football club is being restricted and merchandising and other income streams are apparently being channelled to his external companies to the detriment of the football club itself and yet the FA has said and done nothing.
  9. The owner has at various times banned The Chronicle, The Journal, The Sunday Sun and The Telegraph for reporting (truthfully) on events at the club, but the FA has done nothing.
  10. The owner sold shirt sponsorship rights at NUFC to a payday lender that charges 5,853% interest rates, but the FA did nothing.
  11. The owner has asked fans of the club to pay an additional fee in order to purchase an away ticket, but the FA has said nothing.

In raising these points, I asked the FA’s Chairman, Greg Dyke, why it is that the FA has so far failed to seemingly take any action against the owner of NUFC or challenge his ‘model’, which I explained appears to many people to be based entirely on self-aggrandisement of the owner and his non-footballing, retail interests to the exclusion of any sporting aspirations.

I pointed out that an increasing number of people are asserting that Mr Ashley’s interest in NUFC is purely to make him money, predominantly by pocketing the proceeds of broadcast income, and that there is no or little place in his model for things such as the following.

  • Fulfilling competition obligations (trying to succeed) rather than distorting said competitions. This not only extends to selecting “second-rate squads” to compete in League and FA Cup competitions, but his failure to use the resources at his disposal, commensurate with NUFC’s standing in the game, to provide for a quality of squad in line with the size of the club;
  • Behaving as a “fit and proper person” to own and run an FA-sanctioned, English football club;
  • Responsibilities to the footballing community.

I explained to Mr Dyke that as a supporter of NUFC, I object strongly to the way that our club is being run and explained to him that people are now calling it a “zombie club”, meaning that it is a mere shell club, existing to collect TV revenues for its owner and nothing more.

In summarising my letter, I posed the question “does the FA really not see anything in any of the above that would prompt it to at least make formal enquiries and to possibly consider taking interventional actions (fines or exclusions) regarding the past and ongoing conduct of our club’s owner, or whether it is really satisfied that all of the above is perfectly acceptable for a high-profile club playing in the top league in English football”?

the fa

Well, within 10 days of me writing my letter, I received a reply (from the FA’s Customer Relations team). I copy it below so that you can see what they have said.

‘The owners’ and directors’ Test applies to all clubs in the Premier League, Football League, Football Conference, Isthmian League, Northern Premier League and Southern Football League. The purpose for the test is for the owners, directors and officers of clubs in those leagues to meet standards greater than that required under law so as to protect the reputation and image of the game. The Premier League and Football League administer the Test for clubs in their leagues. Any queries in relation to the application of the Test to a club in membership of the Premier League or Football League should be addressed to the respective league. The FA administers the Test to clubs in membership of the Football Conference and the three leagues below.

With regards to Newcastle’s FA Cup tie v Leicester, The FA are satisfied that Newcastle did field a team at their full available strength for the fixture in question.

As for your comments about Scotland, you would need to address those to the Scottish FA.’

So in summary:

  • They did not address most of the points my letter raised – they just ignored them.
  • It is very clear that the FA does not see any problem with regards to any of the examples of inappropriate behaviour mentioned; from its perspective there is nothing to warrant any kind of investigation or intervention.
  • That they clearly see the Premier League as the appropriate body to consider elements of club conduct rather than the FA itself.
  • They either misunderstood my point about the SFA action (which implies a corresponding action is required by the English FA) or alternatively they reject the point altogether.

So, what does this exercise tell us?

It tells me that the FA is not after all the “custodian of the game of football in this country” that I thought it was and that I thought it thought it was. That came as a surprise.

Also, it tells me that the FA considers that it sees no reason to intervene (after all, it has not done so so far) with regards to the way that NUFC is being run. I think the issue here may be that the FA’s focus is more on things like the England team, women’s football, encouraging kids to play and other very important topics, but very clearly not aspects of football in this country such as appropriate behaviour of club owners and the very real challenges being posed by commercial interests distorting footballing interests in the sport of football in England.

the fa

To conclude then, given that the FA appears to think most of the issues raised are for the Premier League’s in-tray rather than its own, maybe someone would be interested in pursuing this matter with the PL to see what their response is?

Maybe the PL might consider this to be an FA matter rather than one for them, which would be very sadly ironic and deeply shambolic for the game of football in this country but would at least vividly explain the lack of any external official intervention to date.

The bottom line seems to be that no matter how bad the owner’s abuse of power has been at NUFC, no matter how many times his and NUFC’s conduct falls short of fans’ expectations and ambitions, there will be no tap on the shoulder, nobody saying “excuse me, but that behaviour is not acceptable”. No, it will be up to us, the fans, to prompt the change or sell demand to the owner, we have been abandoned.

  • RexN

    Congratulations on your effort, Adam.

  • Phildene

    Good on you writing to the FA. I actually emailed them quite some time ago about the same matters and was passed, like yourself, to the Premier League, who in turn passed me back to the FA!!

    Not one of the ‘powers that be’ in English football will intervene which, in my eyes, is shocking. It seems  the only way is if the owner of the football club has been to jail-done time, like Darlingtons old owner George Reynolds.

    It’s so frustrating that the top people governing football won’t do anything- that’s why we have to keep on with the protests etc as Ashley doesn’t like it as he’s not shown his face since they started. It;s the only way, that and to hit him hard in his greedy pocket.

  • MarkBacon

    Well done fella I hope this gets picked up by a national paper! With a governing body like the FA who needs enemies

  • stephen richards

    Spineless fa shouldn’t expect anything else

  • amacdee

    Yep well done Adam but should you have also sent the same letter to the Premier League ? The FA claim they are in charge of things but we all know its Scudamore and his merry band of crooks and ne’er do wells who hold the power yet they’re also the body who want full stadia and fans to create atmosphere to help sell the PL package worldwide

  • gazchampion

    Good effort, but as always (and if you excuse the expression) the FA haven’t got the balls to respond to all the points you rightfully raise!
    In my opinion, passing the buck to the Premier League was going to be their inevitable response…and the PL won’t be too upset by Ashley and his ‘antics’ as it’s all “good Premier League publicity’ innit! – Sky Sports & the football media in general just love dragging our name into the news and as we all know it’s no longer for being ‘The Entertainers’ on the football field..

    ASHLEY OUT and Toon Army Rebellion is the answer … by continuing to boycot what is left of this sad, pathetic season. If the (now) silent majority who religiously go to SJP and sit and suffer this ignominy actually STOOD UP and walked out on Saturday afternoon and stayed out until things change, that would guarantee action from Ashley.  

    And yes, if it means suffering relegation to guarantee being rid of this fat parasite then so be it. Even he must wake up to the reality of this! It is evident that Ashley doesn’t like the bad publicity because of the ‘announcements’ being generated by NUFC recently… and it IS gathering momentum…he knows! 

  • gazchampion

    amacdee Well said… & my thoughts too!

  • LeazesEnder

    Think we have to use Parliament to change a few laws….

  • Morpeth mag

    I would like to see what the response would be if it was “old Traford ” or ” Anfield ” that was covered in discount store logos?
    Well done Adam,,,

  • ToonTone100

    Good article ! … it doesn’t surprise me that the answer was of the Teflon variety – the governing bodies of football all seem to be more concerned with money and patting themselves on the back than actually being effective in ensuring their “stated goals”.

  • snodgrass2

    Well done but you are appealing to the wrong people. Assuming we are still in the Premier League next season circulars should be sent to the other member clubs and advise them that as we will stop playing football officially when 40 points approximately has been achieved then they should apply to the Fixture Board to ensure that they only play NUFC in the last third of the season when they can be guaranteed 6 points. Sunderland can be excepted of course as they are guaranteed 6 points whenever they meet us.

  • Deltic13

    The F.A are no better than FIFA.

  • DavidDrape

    tremendous Adam. well done. i had same replies re fa cup committee. i look at my local FA and its probably a reflection on FA HQ..shambolic and many in it for their own good. lets get rid i say and bring in paid professionals who know what they are doing

  • magpie9

    Old rich boys club from Blatter in FIFA to the F.A. all the way down. look at world cup fiasco. I think the noose is slowly tightening, the quicker the trap door opens the better for the fat man.

  • magpie9

    Phildene  Should maybe start a campaign of letter (e mail) writing to F.A. Forty thousand every day would get some attention. Just get all concerned fans to write an e mail & e mail every day, only takes a minute but sure would clog up F.A.

  • Imagine you ever get to meet ashley write up a contract or something to say give to club back to the fans. Get him drunk make him sign it the club would then belong to the fans. Imagine if u did something like that. Its a taught it seem crazy

  • BuckBlack

    Good effort, Adam. If nothing else, I think you’ve shown us what we’re up against now.

    One thing that did occur to me, though:How about and appeal to UEFA?

    It strikes me that an organisation which instigated a campaign and series of rule-changes based on 
    something they refer to as ‘Financial Fair Play’ ought to take an interest in what’s going on at NUFC.

  • David Scott

    Money talks…..or it doesn’t talk it swears

  • dt2020

    The one that gets me is the “spirit of the game” part which is prominent in the FA rules. Surely by having a stated aim to finish mid table we are, by default, intending to lose some games. With the surplus money at our disposal this has to be against the spirit of the game.

  • StSaud

    Copies of the letters to the TV media, especially Channel 4 might be worth a try in order to build some pressure + publication of the open letters in the Press. Sadly, not much interest at the moment I fear as the focus is on the shambles at Westminster and will be for a couple of weeks. Too late for this season.

  • Paul A

    Simply shocking.

  • BrianKD

    With regards to the FA I think it means exactly that “FA”. but in the words of Winston Churchill and the infamous meeting between Chamberlain and Hitler “Honourable men are easily duped by Dictators”  I think that it sums up the predicament completely. 
    I also find it deplorable that Sir John Hall and Malcolm Dix should side with Ashley and say the fans have to get off the teams back and support them through the last 3 matches. This shower have not actually performed for two seasons, and want the fans to dig them out of the mess, when the fans have been there all along.

  • chillychrisy

    I do think that getting him officially declared as not being “a fit and proper person” is our best hope of getting him out of our club on our terms.
    Around 3 months ago, when he was over-heard in that pub in Covent Garden talking about buying Tesco shares following meetings there, I really thought he might get prosectuted for insider-trading.  That would have been sufficient.  Unfortunately, nothing followed.
    This is a tactic we should seriously consider adopting…

  • Wallsendstu

    How can they ignore the fact that the fat man puts a surcharge on tickets for both home and away games. Surely the men in grey suits know that without fans football dies, the likes of sky and bt would not pump loads of money into football if they were constantly showing empty stadiums. Exploitation by a scrooge who has no regard for his customers.

  • Morpeth mag

    You shouldn’t have been surprised at the Halls, Shepards, or in fact any director/ owner we’ve had, backing ashley, as they have all been cut from the same cloth and have all been in it to see how much money they can make out of the club/ fans,,,,,,

  • gazchampion

    FIFA, FA, Premier League, Ashley,  It’s pathetic to see those in higher level posts ‘generally’ have fewer morals…either personal or professional! And do you know why…  greed, no backbone and loadsa money, money, money!

    I wish that noose & Trapdoor was at Gallowgate, magpie9! There would be a crowd of 100,000 there to see this bu99er swing!

  • mickrj19761

    BuckBlack  The problem with the Financial Fair Play guidelines is that it only regulates clubs who constantly throw money about to buy their way to success. NUFC is run in such a way that it is self sustaining and lacks the ambition which would require a substantial input of cash to achieve anything other than Premier League survival… Which may or may not backfire this season.

    I think that UEFA would be as disinclined as the FA to do anything about it.

  • The F A hasn’t modernised since the 1880’s and I’m surprised it’s Headqaurters aren’t based in Beamish !

  • Phildene

    @magpie9 now that’s a good idea! An over full inbox will cause problems indeed

  • foggy

    Adam your efforts are commendable.
    The FA are a bunch of self serving traitors. Look what the did to poor old Wimbledon, moved them north to Milton Keynes whilst blowing a raspberry to all of the Wimbledon fans and giving Milton Keynes instant access to the football league. TRAITORS.
    Look at the cost of the redevelopment of Wembley, they spent over a billion quid on Wembley when the had an alternative proposal to build a new national stadium at the nec for less than half the cost of the redeveloped Wembley. Recently the FA have been bleating on about the lack of investment into grass roots football, the Traitors could have spent 500 million on grass roots football and had a new stadium at the nec.

  • TheBoneYard

    The cup games are easy money tho………..hope we get drawn against a no chancer team and then off to the bookies, its like legitimate match fixing……………..so next season cup game, 50,000 geordies all place bets for the opponents to win…..and see what happens !

  • BrianKD

    Morpeth mag Not surprised really as expected it, but does make me laugh as he new exactly what Ashley was going to do with the club. If fact he said earlier in the year that he thought Ashley was doing a good job of running it.
    The only way is to protest at the maximum opportunity, which is now. If it is left until the end of the season, momentum is lost.

  • magpiefifer

    What do the FA know about football – FA!!!!

  • JohnyH

    FCB is a blinding example of someone bleeding a club dry. The evidence has been abundantly clear for all to see for long enough now. Still nothing is being done, why??
    Because they’re all pigs with their noses in the same trough. Football is totally corrupt and rotten to the core.

  • BuckBlack

    In spite of the FA just shrugging their shoulders, Adam, there seems to be some interest in NUFC from the Mirror Group at the moment (if no one else), with a couple of journalists actually having the nuts to seriously question Ashley’s running of the club.
    “Newcastle United are rotten to the core under Mike Ashley – they must shame him into selling”

    “Newcastle fans have every right to be angry with Mike Ashley – not grateful for club’s £34m bank balance”


    “Survive, and Ashley wins his grubby bet — no wonder some fans WANT relegation”
    Here’s another article, from The Premier League Owl blog, that asks a very relevant question: Why will none of the talking heads on the BBC, Sky and BT discuss the problems at NUFC (beyond sneering at our league position following the Pardew Out Campaign)?
    “Newcastle: Television’s strange silence around Mike Ashley”
    Maybe this official Sports Direct video goes some way to explaining why the discussion about the club’s predicament never gets beyond all of that crappy “be careful what you wish for” nonsense when it comes to TV. See how many BBC, Sky and BT talking heeds you can spot giving SD the biggun’

  • JohnyH

    The premier league website states in its principle objective;
    The principal objective of the Premier League is to stage the most competitive and compelling league with world-class players and, through the equitable distribution of broadcast and commercial revenues, to enable clubs to develop ( read academy, youth policy etc…) so that European competition is a realistic aim and, once there,(read attaining a position high enough to qualify) they are playing at a level where they can compete effectively.
    Given that we have consistently demonstrated over the last 8 years that our owner has completely failed to provide any evidence of success in youth development or serious competition in the league or any cup competition, it may be worth asking the premier league if they have any system of checks or any kind of audit on what clubs do with the 10s of millions of £ they get in TV money. Also are the TV companies interested in the possibility that their money is lining the pockets of parasitic owners?
    Worth a punt????

  • gazchampion

    BuckBlack some great links there mate. seen some of them but the more that is out there , the more it will make fatboy mike sweat!
    We can do this if we are UNITED!

  • cheshire mag

    Adam, great post. Why don’t you copy it to all the Nationals and see if they take it up on our behalf. They might be looking for a football story now that the season is coming to a close and the election is finished.

  • gazchampion

    cheshire mag Yep, we should all let the media know… (except the Chronicle, like)
    I’m going to!