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Opinion

Anticipation, hope, optimism… and the price of a club

3 years ago
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Ever since Amanda Staveley was spotted at the ground during a matchday there has been a sense of optimism sweeping through the fans of Newcastle United.

After ten years of life under Mike Ashley that has seen club heroes slandered, two relegations, two promotions and a brief flirtation with Europe, fans are demanding, no … hoping above all else, that a saving figure appears to rescue them from the nightmare and give the whole club the right to dream once more.

With the recent announcement of the club officially up for sale, fans are hoping they will get just that.

There are still many who remain sceptical, this isn’t the first time Ashley has put the club up for sale and there’s still a long way to go before the dream becomes a reality.  It remains to be seen if he will negotiate this time or if, as before, he refuses to budge on his selling price and watch as potential buyers walk off to invest in another club.

There is still plenty of money for him to make out of the TV rights if he chooses to, there’s still plenty of people in the media telling him he’s done OK, that the criticism he is receiving is unreasonable and unwarranted.  He could choose to stay if he doesn’t get what he wants, stamping his feet like a petulant child and continuing to treat the fans with disdain.

The main point of contention right now is the proposed value of the club.  Various sources are claiming the value somewhere between £200-£280m while Ashley is demanding closer to £380m for it.  For anyone who has watched the sage of Ashley’s reign play out, one thing is clear, he isn’t someone who likes to negotiate and wants what he wants or he will walk away.  For fans watching on, hoping that a Manchester City style takeover and subsequent spending spree unfolds, this isn’t something they want to see.

One major problem with Ashley’s evaluation is the state of the club.  He can base his figure on proposed potential all he wants… yes, the club may be worth a lot more some-day with the right investment, but that is key.  The club requires huge investment now to make it competitive at the top end of the league.  After years of neglect, Newcastle United are a shade of what was established under Keegan or Robson, there is a core of hard working players but far too few quality players to make inroads into the top four.

Two relegations and some rather dubious publicity associated with the owner, no major sponsors want to be seen close to the club either, not that it matters when advertising revenue has taken a back seat to making the club the owner’s own private advertising board on the house.  New owners would need to build the club and the brand back, to make it a viable vehicle for any publicity based incentive to buy a club.

Then there is the issue surrounding ownership of St James Park.  If you believe some reports, the club do not own their own ground, nor training complex or youth academy.  This stems from relegation and thanks to local council politics and Ashley’s development of land around the ground there is also little to no chance of further expansions in the future on the current site.  This by itself hurts the club’s overall value.

While this may seem like a doom and gloom article, not all is bad.  The one thing the club does have going for it right now, and it’s a major thing, is there is already a world class manager in place.  Rafa Benitez has been at some of the top clubs in the world, new owners do not then need to worry about paying off someone else to get their own manager in place, nor paying a vast sum to another club to compensate for stealing their man in charge.  NUFC already have a manager that is the envy of many clubs out there, he just needs to backing in the transfer market.

Many fans will be waiting eagerly for anything to transpire to lift them.  The club, despite obvious shortcomings in the summer transfer window, are performing well and getting points on the board early in a season that was tipped by everyone to be tough and a relegation struggle from day one.  A new owner for the January window could give the club the boost it needs to push up the table, but also secure the manager in place.

If Ashley decides to take the club back off the market due to greed and unreasonable valuation then it could trigger a monumental collapse not worth thinking about.  The club needs new investment, a new direction, because the current one certainly hasn’t worked.

The fans will continue to support the team giving their all on the pitch, get behind the manager who has the city enjoying its football again and wait patiently for that glimmer of hope that the future of the club will be in better hands than it currently is.

You can follow the author on Twitter @DownUnderMag
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