Exactly how uncomfortable Mike Ashley is feeling at the moment with the stirrings of protest amongst Newcastle fans, is anybody’s guess.
However, he certainly can’t be happy as the protests are reaching out far beyond Tyneside.
Newcastle fans newly invigorated by the #IfRafaGoesWeGo call to arms, have been doing everything they can to turn up the heat on the club’s owner.
Evidence of it already working on social media are clear to see.
The main Sports Direct UK Twitter account has stopped sending out tweets promoting their products, going from sending out at least half a dozen promotional messages a day to customers, to nothing at all in the last 48 hours. This is a result of Newcastle fans running interference on the Sports Direct tweets, giving a deluge of replies to each of them attacking Mike Ashley and SD.
The same has been the case with the Keith Bishop PR Agency Twitter account, which is majority owned by Mike Ashley/Sports Direct. Having had similar treatment from angry Newcastle fans, they have taken the quite amazing step of protecting their account, which is astonishing for a PR agency to do, this means nobody can see their Twitter messages unless you are authorised to do so by the account holder. Not great for attracting new business!
Also, the club’s official Newcastle United Fans Forum released a statement in support of Rafa Benitez and condemning the lack of support from Mike Ashley.
Maybe the most humiliating one for Mike Ashley so far though, will be the sight of his shameful running of Newcastle United being so publicly challenged in the House of Commons on Tuesday.
Chi Onwurah is a Newcastle United fan who just happens to be MP for the Newcastle Upon Tyne constituency that includes St James Park.
Tuesday saw her present a petition to the House of Common, raising the concerns of Newcastle fans, and it stating; ‘The Petitioners therefore request the House of Commons to take action to prevent unscrupulous football club owners from exploiting the clubs, their fans and local communities, with particular reference to Mike Ashley and Newcastle United Football Club.’
This petition (see below) also had the support of fellow North East MPs Ian Mearns, Mary Glindon and Ian Lavery.
The more and more negative publicity that can be sent Ashley’s way, and the way he acts with regard to Newcastle United broadcast to a far bigger audience, all the better.
Even better, Sky Sports, who have been staunch and willing allies of Mike Ashley in the past, have now fully appreciated where their stance needs to be now.
They gave Chi Onwurah’s petition to the House of Commons great coverage, showing video footage and discussing it at some length. This is as well as giving plenty of coverage now to the wider #IfRafaGoesWeGo protests.
They also revealed that following the petition to the House of Commons, Sky Sports have approached Newcastle United and asked them for their response to it.
This battle can’t be won overnight but I do honestly think that the seeds of change are now being planted and each extra layer of pressure that can be applied, will make owning Newcastle United more and more toxic for Mike Ashley.
What must surely be certain though, is that we will see no repeat of that embarrassing David Craig ‘interview’ with Mike Ashley that was screened on Sky Sports a year ago, where he was not challenged on a single issue regarding his disgraceful running of Newcastle United, instead a free platform for the NUFC owner to push his agenda.
Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah told Parliament today that Mike Ashley’s lack of investment into #nufc needs intervention. @SkySportsNews have requested a response from Newcastle United. https://t.co/3LRNktXMUS
— Pete Graves (@PeteGravesSky) July 24, 2018
The petition that was presented by Chi Onwurah states:
“Football is an integral part of Newcastle upon Tyne’s social, economic and cultural wellbeing – fans of Newcastle United are heavily invested both financially and emotionally in the success of the team.
“The current manager Rafa Benitez needs the support of both fans and the club’s owner, this support should include investment in players, training facilities and community engagement.
“The owner Mike Ashley has not made this support forthcoming.
“The Petitioners therefore request the House of Commons, urge the government to take action to prevent unscrupulous football club owners from exploiting the clubs, their fans and local communities, with particular reference to Mike Ashley and Newcastle United Football Club.”