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Opinion

Is this the biggest Mike Ashley gamble ever?

10 months ago
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I rarely write pieces for The Mag, but at times, I feel almost compelled, especially when I find the club to be in such a dire situation and so poorly run by the goons upstairs.

We have once again found ourselves in the position where the Manager and the squad requires financial backing, yet the man in control of the finances is not prepared to allow this.

Rafa Benitez confirming on Tuesday that we are in a sell to buy situation, despite receiving in excess of £120m in PL TV/Prize money and potentially over £170m in total revenue. In addition, when looking in conjunction at our average expenses whilst in the premier league, it wouldn’t be beyond comprehension to calculate that Newcastle are set to have made a massive profit in the year that just passed, potentially as much as £80-£100 million. So last year’s stringent financial philosophy almost pays off the “debt” incurred during our Championship season.

Mike Ashley famously said that the manager would be given every penny the club generated, quite a bold claim. However, no work is being done to ensure that we generate the income we should be. In 2007, the year Ashley purchased the club, our commercial income was £28m. Then in 2016, 9 years later (the season we were relegated from the PL) it sat at £28m, for perspective, Tottenham’s had grown from £39m to £59m within the same period. Arsenal’s is £42m to £107m and Man united £56m to £268m.

Should we be comparing ourselves with such big clubs, probably not anymore, but I think this clearly depicts that the club is being run to ensure it stays at a certain level. It shows that there is no ambition, no drive and no willingness to compete, but to simply exist in the Premier League at minimal cost and aggravation to Ashley. Due to inflation and increased costs, technically our commercial revenue has significantly decreased under Ashley’s tenure.

So where does that leave us now?

The club have increased ticket prices, shirt prices and are now charging a nominal £5 to watch this year’s friendly games. A money grab! It is my opinion that with the current stringent financial plans in place, compounded by the loan deals, free signings and sell before we buy policy, that Lee Charnley has been tasked with reducing the club debt to zero. But why? Is this to make the club a more prospective and viable option to a potential owner? I really hope so.

However, should the club be increasing ticket/shirt prices or looking at alternative revenue streams? Should spending be cut in order to reduce the debt? It seems that Ashley and Charnley are using the fans and the money the club generates to pay off the debt, which was undoubtedly incurred through their bad management and poor decision making!

So the gamble, Benitez enters the last year of his contract.

Throughout the past two and a half seasons, he has been lied to constantly, undermined, been given false promises, but he has managed to surpass all expectations whilst not being given the tools he needs to put the club in a position we all feel it could be. Therefore, will he stay? I really do not think he will renew his contract and should he go, I am sure others would follow. A permanent deal for Kennedy would be impossible and surely, others like Lascelles would look to leave.

A lot hinges on this season; to not spend is a massive gamble.

If Benitez manages another miracle and keeps our heads above water whilst both hands are tied behind his back, another massive profit will be made, but then what?

Continued mediocrity?

New ownership?

A new manager?

Even if we do surpass expectations again, will it be enough?

If the unthinkable was to happen, we could be saying goodbye to our PL status, our Manager and our best players, simply because the club are unwilling to do what is necessary.
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