With the spotlight growing ever brighter on Mike Ashley and his running of Newcastle United, we thought this article below deserved another airing, especially with regard to the current debate and attention focusing on what exactly the relationship is between Sports Direct and the NUFC club shop.

We asked the author of the piece to do an introduction to that excellent article (see below).

Hopefully many others will read this piece now, as well as a reminder to others who saw it the first times around:

‘Following the excellent work by the Magpie Group and others over the  last few weeks, the subject of NUFC merchandise has reared its head again.

‘With a host of questions that need to be answered around merchandising  sales and Sports Direct’s involvement in club shops.

‘I wrote this nearly a  year ago (September 2017) after I happened to spot something by chance on the nufcdirect.com site and then spent the next two days (to the dismay of  my missus) delving deeper…’

When Mike Ashley purchased Newcastle United FC it was said to be a spur of the moment deal, done so not for business but to allow the billionaire to “have some fun”. At the time it was made out that the deal was literally carried out in a couple of days.

“The deal was put to me on a Saturday. By the Monday, in advance of speaking to Sir John, I’d deposited the equivalent of money we hoped he would accept for his shares at the lawyers and on the Tuesday the deal was effectively done.

By Wednesday (May 23, 2007) the announcement was public and that was the first anyone, including the media, knew about it. Once I was told about it, it was done very quickly. Sir John was ready to act if I was and it was a very straightforward process.”

If that is the case then why did Sports Direct register the domain name nufcdirect.com 6 months earlier?

mike ashley

In fact, forget the date of the purchase, why did Sports Direct purchase that domain name at all? Without the will of the club they would have been on very shaky ground setting up any online store etc using NUFC in the name.

Since 2012 that domain name has been used to run the NUFC online store through which all online sales of shirts, clothing and general tat have been funnelled. Every replica shirt (current retail price £59.99), beanie hat (£13) or SoccerStarz Rafa  model (£3.50) that we buy from the “official” store goes through here.

And there lies the problem, the official site is just a front end to the Sports Direct website, they are one and the same just with a different look. Imagine a Sports Direct shop with a big cardboard front to make it look like the club shop!

Dont believe me? Have you ever compared any of the products between NUFC and SD? Everything is described, priced etc exactly the same.

Try this:

http://www.nufcdirect.com/puma-newcastle-united-authentic-home-shirt-2017-2018-377410?colcode=37741040

http://www.sportsdirect.com/puma-newcastle-united-authentic-home-shirt-2017-2018-377410?colcode=37741040

Or how about:

http://www.sportsdirect.com/team-knit-hat-mens-900013?colcode=90001310

http://www.nufcdirect.com/team-knit-hat-mens-900013?colcode=90001310

Now try this one

http://www.nufcdirect.com/team-club-3-pack-air-fresheners-840136?colcode=84013640

http://www.sportsdirect.com/team-club-3-pack-air-fresheners-840136?colcode=84013618

And now remove the last part of the URL….

http://www.sportsdirect.com/team-club-3-pack-air-fresheners-840136

Hmmmm Rangers….Spooky eh?

Try it, for yourself, go on nufcdirect and pick a product, then change the http://www.nufcdirect.com in the URL to http://sportsdirect.com and I’ll guarantee you’ll pull up the same page on their site just looking very slightly different. Word for word every description matches, every image is the same. Most importantly the prices are exact in every case.

Whats happening is that the nufcdirect site uses a subset of the Sports Direct product range. Basically anything related to NUFC is displayed on the nufcdirect site. Other than that though everything else is Sports Direct. Ordering, warehouse, delivery etc etc. You are even given a £5 Sports Direct voucher if you get your purchase delivered to one of their stores!

Remember this from 2013? The decision to sell Rangers items on NUFC site caused a kick off….Except I don’t think there ever was a decision to add them, it was a mistake caused by the fact that someone cocked up when writing the description and started the 2nd para with “The Newcastle United jacket sports a traditional…..” meaning it was picked up and included within the NUFC range by the website.

This link can be proven by another look at the nufcdirect who.is record however this time select the DNS tab and here’s where it gets a tad technical.

Look to the bottom of the list and you’ll see a CNAME record showing

www.nufcdirect.com        CNAME        599                others.sportsdirect.edgekey.net

Funnily enough, if you view the Rangers who.is record you’ll see

www.rangersmegastore.com        CNAME        599                others.sportsdirect.edgekey.net

A CNAME Record allows you to redirect a URL to a totally different site without it being obvious. Once you’re redirected to Sports Direct the website sees where you’ve come from and styles the site accordingly, narrowing the products down to the allowed subset (ie anything containing NUFC or Newcastle United). All the time leaving the domain name and any product URL the same as you visited originally.

A check of the sites code shows that the code is the same as well, examples such as..

<link href=”/desktopmodules/sportsdirect/basketsummary/module.css”

litter the HTML for nufcdirect.com.

This is exactly what happens when a company offers their products for sale via white label ie the ability to sell a third party’s goods with a site that looks like its your own. In all white label solutions the referring domain (in this case nufcdirect.com) receives a small commission from every purchase.

When MA bought into Rangers there was uproar at the fact he negotiated a deal to see Sports Direct take over the merchandising of the club. That deal absolutely screwed Rangers seeing their share of the takings reduced to only 7%. MA owned 9% of Rangers and managed to do that.

He owns 100% of NUFC, there is zero chance that he’s not doing the same thing (or even potentially worse) here. Why wouldn’t he?

SO what does that mean in terms of actual cash? well based on a £59.99 shirt sale, assuming NUFC get the same 7% commission structure as Rangers did then you’d be looking at £4.20 per shirt coming NUFCs way. In 2010 the extremely knowledgable Swiss Ramble quoted the club share of a shirt sale in their own stores as being €10 – 15, that was 7 year ago when an adult shirt cost €46 (£40) so if we take €10 that’s approx 22% from every shirt sale.

SportingIntelligence.com had an article on shirt sales which stated that NUFC sold an average 100,000 shirts per year. Based on those figures NUFC would have received a nice straight forward €1m under the standard commission structure. From a 7% SD rate that drops to €315k. Multiply that by the last 5 years and you’re looking at over €3m.

In itself, that’s not a massive amount, however that’s shirt sales alone, we’re talking every piece of tat, scarf, kids gear, garden gnome, souvenirs etc etc. Just as importantly to Ashley however it boosts SDs standing, increases share prices and the overall value of his company while reducing ours. Add in the free advertising, payment of PR fees to his own company, movement of assets from NUFC to St James’ holdings etc and he’s not doing too badly at all.

That is of course, assuming we even get 7%, there’s nothing to say that NUFC’s cut from this isn’t a big fat zero.

One thing that’s always said about football ownership is that it rarely makes a profit and that’s what I believe Ashley wants. Think about it, you have 2 businesses, 1 is massively profitable the other makes nowt therefore why not take some of the profitable bit of business 2 and move it to business 1 meaning the 2nd makes a bigger loss while the 1st a bigger profit. Ashley then includes the loss of NUFC in his personal tax return meaning 47% of that loss is recovered by paying less tax!

So, if you’re still reading this, THAT is why I believe Mike Ashley bought NUFC and more worryingly why he has no intention of selling.

You can follow the author on Twitter @pjwhitfield and you can visit his own personal blog HERE.

To feature like Peter Whitfield submit your article to [email protected] and/or for more info go here



  • FatParosite

    Just stop going to the SJP, morons…… it’s one of the 2 ways Ashley will go…. The other way is the way of $hitland AFC…. I bet it’s that way because the junkies can’t give up their habit & will take the club down because of it…

    • Kenny

      wall, head, head wall, lost cause

    • Superdooperhooper

      Yep a boycott of one high profile TV game like Chelsea next weekend would infuriate sky SD shareholders and other pitchside sponsors.

      • Kenny

        You need to protest every home match on Tv

      • Monkseaton Magpies

        It might also get us relegated which most people on this site want to happen perhaps ten Newcastle Supporters on here at best the rest probably Sunderland or Man UTD.

  • Paul Patterson

    The owner is merely a high end thief. And yet people still buy the shirts/merchandise AND chant Ashley out. I cant support the former when someone does the latter. HYPOCRITES!!

  • toonterrier

    The first couple of years after he bought the club I spent big money buying strips and other merchandise and sending them overseas for the young family members.
    I then realised he had little if any interest in the club and only wanted to fill his pockets with money from the mugs like myself who thought we would leap ahead under his ownership. Took a while to realise how money grabbing the fatman was so no more money spent in the shops and finally gave up my season ticket after thirty years. As long as the supporters keep filling the ground then there’s no chance the scumbag will walk away. Get your brains in gear lads and lasses and make waves and force him out.

    • kingfisher

      My thoughts exactly toon.I stopped going ages ago and will not return while Ashley is here.Can you imagine the publicity an empty staium at a televised game would bring?
      Like you (and many others) I wish the season ticket holders would realise what power they have .

  • Kneebotherm8

    Ashley says he bought our club on the spur of the moment for a bit of fun and the deal was done in two days…….😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂😂

    • Kenny

      Bollix isn’t it

      • Kneebotherm8

        Total bull💩………..He didn’t amass his fortune by being the naive individual he’d like us all to believe in the purchase of NUFC……..A proven liar and he keeps on lying…..

  • Superdooperhooper

    Well done Peter . This is the sort of well researched intelligent journalism we need from the chronicle but they’ve been gagged and bound by MGN

  • Kenny

    With a bit of luck his lifestyle will kill off the vermin sooner rather than later 🤞

  • HarryHype59

    This is a well researched article. It also shows the importance of boycotting all NUFC merchandise.

    • Geordiegiants

      That includes the match it’s self.

  • Ivan

    Spur of the moment thing what a load of bollocks he got his holding company to do an investigation into nufc months before he bought it

    The bloke is a rotten con man

    • Sickandtired

      Aye, and a billionaire with a London legal team allegedly couldn’t identify the club had a mortgage, and it had to be repaid immediately when he bought.

      • Carverlier football

        There is no way in a million years he didn’t know about the mortgage. It’d take a few seconds looking at the balance sheet to clearly see it, even if we are to believe it was a rushed/botched due dilligence…

  • Milburn_Taylor

    I detest that man

  • Geordiegiants

    That is the reason nobody will buy! His tat shop has all of the income tied up in any sale.

    • Kenny

      Clarko will be number crunching like a goodun

      • Geordiegiants

        🤣😂

    • Sickandtired

      And every penny he’s ponied up, including his purchase price, is secured on club assets (land and property). Even the operating overdraft isn’t his – it’s Barclays, secured on the clubs PL/FA revenue!

      • Geordiegiants

        It’s his profit but the clubs debt.

    • Leazes.

      I think there’s been a big fans embargo on shirts when you look around you see fans wearing older or retro shirts in larger numbers….. the next protest should be the club shop to highlight that its a S**** D***** outlet under a false name!

      • Geordiegiants

        I wish they would get their heads around staying away. It would o to be temporary, he isn’t going to go unless he is pushed.

        • Kenny

          off a cliff would be handy

  • Sickandtired

    And yet the accounts suggest sales of only £572,000 from purchases of SD goods of £1,281,000. The ‘club’ receiving only £180,000. Daylight robbery alright considering how many shirts and all the other tat is bought. .
    RFC got only £7 from every £100 of merchandise sold.

  • Leazes.

    Ever since the BBC did an expose on the ‘club’ shop which showed the Shirebrook tax point on the till receipts it became obvious that this was a racket.

    Ashley has the biggest purchasing power of any Football club via his SD concern, and yet United’s retail profits have plummeted in relation to our rivals….Ashley is taking the profits …..not the club!…. if a shirt now costs £65 and he’s handing over £4.20 to United then the production costs for we know were a fiver…. lets be generous and say £10 now…..

    Ashley must be taking £50 a shirt for himself!

    • Geordiegiants

      I don’t think even his most (CLARKO) supporter would try and dispute that.

      • Clarko

        I do dispute that because that’s not how shirt sales work. Puma pay Newcastle a set annual (licensing) fee and a percentage (~10%) of the revenue they make from selling shirts (to people like Ashley and SD).

        Ashley doesn’t produce our shirts (like suggested) he buys them from Puma and then Puma pay Newcastle (~10%). Comments about our ‘retail profits’ (commercial revenue?) without any numbers are just silly.

        The only thing worth talking about here is the club shop and where that revenue goes but until someone has some actual numbers/evidence, it’s pointless.

        • Kenny

          Classic case of head the ball

          • Clarko

            Classic case of stupidity.

          • Kenny

            be a good Rat & get back in your bin

        • Geordiegiants

          I’ve asked you before (Trawl through our conversations) and you said to me that it’s out there and everyone knows how much!

          • Clarko

            Why don’t you ‘trawl’ through our conversations and quote it because I don’t know what you’re talking about. It’s not my job to find evidence for your argument dummy.

          • Geordiegiants

            I don’t need to I know!

          • Clarko

            In other words, you couldn’t find it…

        • SuperDesHamilton

          Clarko I’ve got some numbers for you here, 0…the amount of females you’ve kissed.

          You boring tedious oaf.

      • Kenny

        Wrong 😄

    • Wezza

      Exactly this is what people don’t seem to understand. Ashley is making millions from the club – what I find hilarious is that the Lee brothers insist he hasn’t taken a penny. Pure trolling.

      • Leazes.

        This is why it doesn’t show up in any accounts, he’s taking his cut at source, and like the free advertising the club is being stripped of income streams…..

        • Wezza

          100% true. More and more people are now seeing this.

      • HarryHype59

        I wonder if we will ever know where the £126m TV money has gone to?

  • NUFCLX

    The fat bar steward is consistent, he started his ownership with lies and continued telling them for the next 11 years.

  • Kenny

    i see Clarko`s out of his bin,
    his motto, its not easy being superior to everyone i know

  • Shields Mag

    Crank up the pressure on Ashley, the only way is to stop going, ideal opportunity coming up against Chelsea in front of tv cameras. An empty stadium would speak volumes to coin a phrase.

    • Geordiegiants

      Deaf Ears unfortunately!

    • Stephen Taylor

      Or if you do go turn up at kickoff time, thousands of fans trying to get in at the same time. Hopefully will delay the kickoff, Sky schedule disrupted might make a small statement.

      • Si

        Everyone turn up with jd sports bags and hold them up during the game; make and wear Ashley out t-shirts or similar. Make his other business negative not NUFC.

    • Monkseaton Magpies

      With only one hundred and seventy six single seats left in the normal area of the stadium think the ground will be full again.

  • Leazes.

    I’d ask a question of those journalists who said there were genuine bidders who went through a process of due diligence with Ashley’s books…..

    How did they manage to work out the clubs income when so much of what was United’s income is incorporated into S***** D***** and has gone AWOL.

    • Down Under Mag

      I suspect this may be part of the problem with potential buyers (if they existed and were serious in the first place). The more that comes to light to more it looks like SD will have their fingers in a lot of NUFC related pies even were the club to be sold and there is a big issue for potential investors – why would they buy the club outright, fund any redevelopments and player acquisitions and aim high with the club if there are contracts in place for the shirt and merchandise sales to still be run through the SD site and therefore still give Ashley profits??

      • Leazes.

        Yup you cant see Ashley letting go of the stuff he’s talken…. Now when Denis Wise teased everyone with the comments that….

        ….’Ashley wouldn’t sell to an Asset stripper’……

        … knowing fine well the club has already been stripped of everything tangible he was indeed putting the knife in.

        I highlighted the pret-a-manger remarks in January where Ashley had supposedly said that he wouldn’t allow spending on the squad or club and that ‘Loan deals’ for players would become the norm…..because he wouldn’t allow funding for a club he had no interest in.

        …the asset strip has been completed when you start on the squad….

        We aren’t even playing the game with our own players….Ashley has taken loans to the max allowable under the premiership rules.

  • Monkseaton Magpies

    The excellent Magpie Group I love that one. The last Magpie group bought the club.
    This Magpie club not one offer yet a complete waste of time. Ashley still here so they have failed big time.

    • NUFCLX

      Do not slag the Magpie Group which is in it’s infancy, respond to the above article.
      I will agree with you on everything you post it u can prove to me Fatman is not a liar.

      • Monkseaton Magpies

        If the Magpie Group and Shearer can do any better let them do it. They talk a great game but so far no action get on with it and buy him out then put two hundred million in the club to buy players. What are we waiting for get on with it.

        • TheFatController

          Look everybody – Mugpie thinks disrespect and exploitation are ok if you have more money than those people moaning about it

          He once told Jimmy Savile that in a lift too.

          Morals compass all over the place, Mugpie – no surprise.

          • Monkseaton Magpies

            There are fans on here you praise Shay Given still on here so think the boot is on the other foot myself. It takes money to buy the club something the people who sing Ashley get out of our club fail to understand.

      • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

        At the moment, the magpie group are no more than any of the other bedsheet wavers.

        The original group had a purpose , plan and risked their own money.

        • Bob_the_Builder

          at least they are not a white flag waving c nut like you
          just f##king die

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            Clever, I see how you got round the sweary stopping software.

            Pity you don’t have much interesting to say.

        • NUFCLX

          From Little Acorns Do Mighty Oaks Grow

          • Monkseaton Magpies

            I am still waiting for their first bid to buy the club. Very disappointed with the Magpie Group.

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            They do but there isn’t a plan.

            If they made a statement that their intention was to partner potential investors etc, great. If they are just writing open letters, then they are no better.

      • Monkseaton Magpies

        When I had a meeting with Freddie Fletcher I asked to bring the club merchandise fully in house and take all the profits. He said you must be joking as they would make no money at all. I even suggested manufacturing the shirts in a factory and he shot me down in flames.
        So this article really is just another go at Ashley nothing more nothing less.

        • NUFCLX

          Did he tell u that in the lift ? You seem to meet a lot of high profile people, r u going to be on CBB anytime soon.
          Of course it is a go at Ashley, every GO at Ashley is self inflicted by the Fat Con Man.

        • TheFatController

          Did you ask him if you could do it yourself, or suggest they do it?

          Your grammar is shocking for a man who has more meetings with top people than graham norton.

          • Monkseaton Magpies

            Your probably more interested in grammar than football to be honest and your understanding of English must be poor as perfectly clear what I wrote so will explain in simple terms.
            I asked the club Newcastle United to manufacture, sell and distribute the shirts and try make more money. What is hard to understand about that.

          • Coble’s Return

            Who does that? Name one club, football or any other sporting club that does that. Then ask yourself why. Even the Mancs or the big Spanish clubs don’t do that because they would not achieve economies of scale to compare with their suppliers.

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            The first adidas kit (96) was made locally, under license from adidas. It wasn’t a regular adidas design but the club did not make enough on it because of the costs.

            Polygon looked at outsourcing the merchandising because we had poor efficiencies under the old regime operated by Bruce Shepherd.

        • Tony English

          If there was no money to be made in owning the merchandising and self manufacturing, why do businesses pitch for these markets and pay us a percentage of the revenue?

          There is money to be made, it’s just more traceable.

    • Kenny

      🐩

  • Down Under Mag

    As long as Ashley is making money and getting publicity for SD then he will never sell. There is also a growing sense among fans given the revelations of deals he was trying to put in place at Rangers (with only 10% ownership) that even should he sell there will be long term ramifications to the club involving payment or deals for image right still owned by SD that would ensure no matter what he would still profit from the club. It wouldn’t surprise me (given his sale of the land at Strawberry place for personal gain at the expense of any future club expansion ability) that we would need to be looking at moving ground, designing a new club crest etc to fully get away from him AND that is without even starting on preferred deals with suppliers that he no doubt owns. I can’t help but feel that the only true solution will be to go the route of Wimbledon and start a new club from scratch! Drastic, yes, not really feasible and probably wouldn’t get off the ground, BUT I think there is as much chance of a new club working as there is of Ashley selling any time soon and certainly more chance of him selling without any strings attached! if this comes to light then the F.A. needs to step in…you can guarantee there would be plenty of action were it the Liverpool or Man Utd owners trying to asset strip!

  • Kenny

    Oxygen thief

  • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

    Peter, you are making a lot of this up. The deal Rangers got was down to SD making a loan to Rangers to get them through the season when they were outside the spl. SD lent money as their shareholders and directors refused. The merchandise deal was their security in a very high risk loan.

    Our deal with SD is different. SD get a super deal with Puma and pass the saving on to us.

    You are right, SD provide the website for us and a lot of clubs. Many, if not most of the Puma wearing clubs, not just foitball, have SD doing the warehousing and fulfillment.

    I have absolutely no problem with the arrangement of outsourcing warehousing and distributions & using SD economies of scale. I can’t see a new owner changing much of this arrangement as it benefits Nufc.

    People just see SD and shout it must be bad!!

    • Tony English

      “SD get a super deal with Puma and pass the saving on to us.”

      Where? Where are we seeing the savings passed on to us?

      Before you accuse the author of making stuff up you should maybe cite a source for that kind of statement.

      I think maybe you have the Puma/SD/NUFC deal in reverse mate, its noticeable that whilst the likes of Arsenal publicise the value of their deal with Puma, our deal is undisclosed. Why?

      Is it beyond the realms of possibility that Puma pay less than the market rate for supplying NUFC kit on the understanding that SD receive goods at a favourable rate on which they can make more profit?

      • Peter C

        That sounds very more plausible, than Fleckman’s assertion.

        • Tony English

          I couldn’t see the financial details of our kit deal anywhere, yet other Puma kit deals – Arsenal, Burnley etc are easily found…why?

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            Arsenal’s was not via Sports Direct.

          • Peter C

            Why indeed, ……… I’m sure the deal with Puma is legally above board, but why keep the transaction, cloaked in secrecy.

            The assumption is, there’s something unpleasant, which is being hidden.

            It’s the same in my opinion, when a transfer fee is declared as undisclosed.

            This breeds suspicion in my mind, and must mean, there’s some sort of skulduggery taking place.

      • TheFatController

        Never ask them for proof or facts.

        But do block them.

        • Tony English

          I don’t block. I’d rather see the full spectrum of knowledge/idiocy.

      • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

        We don’t know either way. I think it was Polygon who first looked into using SD for merchandise as they thought the club was quite inefficient in it’s processing. Outsourcing to SD should be beneficial to both parties.

  • Wor Lass

    Peter, maybe you could use your IT skills to research some of the multiple personalities currently afflicting this site. Could be one of the more interesting reads!

    • Leazes.

      There’s a block button, I use it extensively….. I wonder if anyone uses it on me?

      • Kenny

        bobbi fleckman calls you worse than 💩

        • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

          I do, I say he’s a liar.

      • Wor Lass

        Who said that?

    • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

      It would, if Leazes & Fat Jezza the same person, Mickey love, Kenny, Wezza & Fireman Sam have a similar style.

      • Wor Lass

        You`re a laugh a minute, Bobbi. Goebbels could have learned from you, mate!

        • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

          I’m fairly sure Kenny and Micky love are the same person. Neither are too bright and their Diqus logon was created on the same day.

          Wezza seem to have taken over as Fireman Sam left. Fat Jezza is just weird but so is Leazes’ so they could be the same person.

  • Mike

    i dont think the club has ever been seriously up for sale

  • Wezza

    The noose is tightening on MA, the lies are starting to come out one by one. The latest Mail apology was just the start.