Remember the Spurs game last year? Despite relegation, most Toon fans were looking forward to this season more than we had done for a decade. We’d won 5-1, we’d had a decent run (undefeated in final six PL games of the season) and we had a manager we believed in.
Odd, then, isn’t it, that many of us are looking at the next 4 months with what I’d describe as, nervous trepidation.
We are chuffed that we were promoted with a minimum of fuss but there are doubts about the season to come. The equation that most people agree upon is: the current squad isn’t good enough for the Premier League; Rafa will demand new players; the right calibre of player will mean a major spend; Mike Ashley may revert to type and refuse funding; if Rafa is short-changed he’ll walk.
So it’s Mike Ashley’s move. But when I say that, I don’t just mean inviting Rafa to a meeting and running the numbers. I want Mike Ashley to fall in love with Newcastle United. Apart from a few early months when he turned up in the away end and bought a few rounds in the Bigg Market – he has spent the past 10 years showing the club as much affection as he would a troublesome hemorrhoid.
Right now, we have an owner who sees NUFC as a business rather than a labour of love, and unless that changes, I don’t see us getting the future we want, because – and I hate saying this – it makes no financial sense for Mike Ashley to invest beyond a certain point.
Newcastle’s revenue in the Premier League will come from a variety of sources: Gate receipts, merchandise, domestic TV, overseas TV and so on.
The problem I have with this is that the club are guaranteed a certain level of income regardless of whether we finish top or bottom. We’ll probably get 50,000 plus at SJP every week. Half of the domestic TV money and all of the overseas cash is distributed equally between the 20 clubs. We get a larger share of the rest the more often we are shown on TV, the further up the league we finish. But our games are televised a lot whether we do well or do badly and league position is only worth £2m per place. Now think about that for a minute…
Let’s say Mike Ashley invests enough money to magically guarantee us a 17th place finish. I reckon that – before anyone pays a penny at the gate – the club will get around £125m in revenue. It doesn’t really matter if my numbers are a bit out. A certain level of funds will come our way no matter how good or bad we are. And I do believe Mike Ashley doesn’t want another relegation. That would mess up the balance sheet. But our reward for finishing 16th would only be £2m more. 15th would yield us a further £2m, and so on.
So if you see the football club purely as a business, then it makes virtually no economic sense to spend the amount of money that some people are speculating. Finishing 12th as opposed to 17th would see us trouser an additional £10m. How much extra would it cost to guarantee that in transfers and wages? £20m?
A businessman would rather spend that on something else. Put it in stocks and shares and it should earn you £1.5m every year, and you get to keep the £20m.
Despite what buffoons such as Bellamy and Sherwood have said in recent days, I don’t think Toon fans need a top 6 finish to be happy next season. But we do look at a club like Everton – where decent investment by engaged owners has yielded a successful Premier league club – and wonder why we couldn’t have done the same as them. And we also look at Villa and Sunderland and see what happens when owners don’t love their clubs.
I’d like to think that the positive vibes he generated when he hired Rafa has made Mike Ashley feel good about investing in the club. I hope so.
If Newcastle United represents no more than a business he wishes he hadn’t bought, then Newcastle United will never be more than a struggling side.
I suspect that will not be enough for Rafa Benitez and it isn’t good enough for me. We need our owner to start loving our club.
Your move Mike…
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