How can we get rid of Mike Ashley?

I think it’s fair to say that the vast majority of our support wish to see a change of ownership at the club.

The difficulty we have is that we don’t own the club, so effecting that change is not in our gift. We can only employ tactics which utilise our strengths, such as our great numbers and the passion that we have for our City and it’s Football Club.

The momentum is visibly building in the protests against the owner, and the way he runs his businesses. We can see that we are gaining support amongst the better Journalists and Politicians. Life is starting to become a little less comfortable for Mike Ashley on a number of fronts.

What I’ve set out below is just an idea, with the aim of hastening his departure. No doubt there’ll be others reading this with a lot more subject knowledge, who may be able to advise, develop, or dismiss this as an idea, see what you think.

First of all consider why he is still hanging on to owning the club in the face of massive dissent from the fan base.

Money.

Lots of it.

£123,000,000 last season in TV money, £20+ million profit in  the last transfer window, free advertising and so on……

As far as I’m aware the bulk of the clubs income, the TV money, doesn’t look like it’s being spent. There’s no tangible evidence of expenditure on that scale that I can see anywhere around the club.

So maybe it’s being used for another purpose, we don’t know for certain, we can only speculate. Maybe Ashley would consider selling if that money wasn’t available to him in quite the same way in future?

How do we achieve that?

Consider a campaign with the aim to reform how the authorities govern football. This may take years to achieve but once it can be seen coming down the road, it may have an  earlier effect.

The Football Association is the governing body of the sport. They oversee how the game is run in this country, at arms length you could say.

The Premier League is operated as a corporation and is owned by its twenty member clubs who are shareholders.

The FA aren’t involved in the day to day running of the PL.

The PL market the rights to broadcast games and receive money from the TV companies in return. This season they received £2.4 Billion.

This money is then distributed amongst the twenty clubs, with the aim of improving the game in their respective area.

The Premier League handbook states;

‘The collective and central way the Premier League markets its rights and distributes revenues to clubs supports them in their efforts to develop and acquire talented players, build and improve stadiums, and make a huge contribution to the entire football pyramid and a range of community programmes and good causes.’

Recently I wrote to the PL asking what audits are carried out, to confirm that these huge sums of money are being spent according to the above paragraph.

These are the responses I received.

‘There is no specific audit of how central payments are spent, however our Handbook contains wide-ranging requirements relating to relevant areas such as club finances, governance and stadium criteria etc. ‘

‘Newcastle United, like all clubs in the Premier League, is an independent body that is subject to and bound by the competition Rules.

Our role is to apply the Premier League handbook on behalf of the clubs and we cannot act outside of those Rules.

As mentioned previously, there are several Rules aimed at ensuring good governance of Premier League Clubs and they are of course also subject to Company Law.

All of our Clubs are equal shareholders in our competition and sign up to and invest in a number of agreed central initiatives. We cannot however make decisions about the day to day running of our member Clubs. They all have their own directors, management teams, lawyers, accountants and many other staff with that responsibility, and who they employ to fill these positions is entirely their decision.

We provide a framework that includes rules governing who” can invest in our Clubs and a requirement for Clubs to prove that they are sustainable by submitting future financial information showing they can meet their liabilities for the year ahead.’

The two statements that leap from the page are,

‘There are no specific audits on how the central payment is spent.’

‘We cannot however make decisions about the day to day running of our member Clubs.’

In other words, the PL receive £2.4 Billion and distribute it amongst the clubs, thereafter having no interest in how it is disposed of. Nor do they wish to be involved.

At least that’s how I see it.

Our task would be to seek reform, perhaps more robust requirements from the PL handbook,  where club owners would be required to demonstrate and account for the specific expenditure of the TV money, in accordance with the PL handbook; player development and recruitment, improving the stadium and training facilities etc…..Given  the huge sums of money involved, I’d argue that this should be happening anyway.

There is an argument which makes it difficult to impose reforms like those proposed, on what is basically a private corporation, but I would counter that by making the distinction that the FA and PL are the custodians of the National game, therefore we are all stakeholders who should have the right to demand reform where needed.

The bottom line being, for example, if Ashley was required to spend, or at least legally commit, all of the £123.000.000 on the club this year, being legally barred from moving the money elsewhere, he might sell.

With this reform in mind I’ve written to the Minister for Sport and Culture, Tracey Crouch MP, asking for a response to my concerns around this slack handling of enormous amounts of money.

If what’s going on concerns you as well, write to her.

As I said at the start, we have numbers on our side.

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  • Kenny

    The FA & Premier League are as bent as the Fat Rat. No joy from them anytime soon, if ever

    • X2

      Yes, they’re not impressive but this could get the interest of the Minister for Sport. It’s not just us with a poisonous owner. It won’t be easy but it could work.

  • Waxi

    This could be the start of a very long journey but the sooner we start it the better. I would wager that not many areas of business can get 2.4 billion per year paid into it without the tax man wanting to know where the money has gone. The fat slug may start to think about what he does from now on if he has to show where OUR money has gone.

    • Pezza

      The tax man dies see where every penny goes.

      • JohnnyH

        Missed the point yet again,
        The tax man is only looking at tax revenues, not interested in the propriety of spending in line with the PL guidelines.

        • Waxi

          Well done Johnny for kicking this off it could be the biggest thing to happen in football since the bosman IMHO. My point was the taxman is both a collector and inspector so surely if they know a club is getting 125 million they would want to know where it was spent/gone so they can collect the tax etc and if any discrepancies arise the inspector would get involved which the FCB would be brought to book

          • JohnnyH

            Fair point mate.

      • Will In Despair!

        No!

      • JohnnyH

        Pretty sure that the tax mans interest is only that the correct amount of tax is paid on the income, not what happens to it after the fact.

  • Paul Patterson

    ‘There are no specific audits on how the central payment is spent.’
    ‘We cannot however make decisions about the day to day running of our member Clubs.’

    Those two statements are VERY worrying. The way I read them is as follows:

    1. There is no reason why we need to check where money goes once the club receives it.

    2. If the owner of a club wants to use the money to buy a high street department store, we have no reason to check where the money goes once the club receives it.

    Our top striker last summer, likely went by the name of Fraser . .

    • Pezza

      You can check if this happens in the accounts. The likelihood of it happening is very low

    • Leazes.

      Yes I mean it does go to his central MASH account which he uses to buy squares on the monopoly board,…. as he does for all of his different companies but at the end of the day the NUFC account has to balance.

      He’s not involved in grand theft unless he’s doing a ‘Maxwell’ and all of those accounts cant be tallied at the same time.

      He’s taking money out through untraceable and un-auditable routes…the free advertising which also denies the taxman doesn’t show up but contributes significantly to the main part of his business the online trade…..

      …… and of course he has taken all of the merchandising which has shrunk in comparison to the rest of the premiership so we know he’s taking a big cut but cant prove it because its absorbed into S**** D****t, the club gets an arbitrary payment

      He’s taken enough to significantly damage United,

      ….. the retailer with the biggest purchasing power in the country hasn’t benefited the club since he bought it….that is odd….really odd!

      A £65 shirts and the bulk of the profits go to benefit Ashley!…. he’s taken our branding the crest of a proud city and marketed it like his donnay socks!

      Fortiter Defendit Triumphans.

      • Pezza

        No it does, it’s been explained so many times to you until you refuse to even hear more intelligent people than you and you block them.

        The money goes and has so far, stayed within the club. You know this but continually lie.

        • JohnnyH

          Moot point pezza
          Regardless of where the money is sitting, there is no evidence of £123 million being re-invested back into the club.

          • Pezza

            Depends what you call reinvest, about £110m went on wages. Overall the club ran a rough £40m surplus

      • Wezza

        Well said mate. To further your point about the untraceable it clearly states in the last accounts that transactions between parties do not have to be stated. What a loop hole!

    • Pezza

      There are audits, it’s in the accounts.

      Yes, the owner can withdraw his money but it’s all accounted for

      • JohnnyH

        Missed the point again,
        The suggestion is that the PL should be able to show what clubs are spending the TV money on.
        Company accounts are a different matter entirely.

        • Pezza

          You can see fro. The accounts where all the money goes

  • Arty Hume

    TFCB stated the club would give Rafa ” every last penny ” it generated, so it is only fair that there should be an audit to find out where that money disappeared to! If the money was used for anything other than club use, the F.A should investigate this action to establish if the owner is a fit and proper person to be in charge of a football club. Also HMRC should be informed as a matter of course. For far too long the club has been mismanaged and dragged through the mud, its time for change.

    • Paul Patterson

      You know what? If Rafa had walked in the summer, I suspect there could have been another Keegan style court case and it would have been a far more damaging one . .

  • Cockneytrev

    Well done john,,👏👏👏
    IMO As paying customers, be it season tickets, sky, BT or even BBC (licence fee) we are entitled to a product that is value for the money we are paying, this is not the case here.
    On another note , I don’t think there will be many fans who don’t know who owns Newcastle United, there is only a few other clubs who fans would know who own them, Ambramovich being the one that stands out,, surely the FA can’t enjoy all the negative publicity that surrounds Ashley? Or perhaps they just ignore?

  • Leazes.

    Well done that man!

  • X2

    Love it. This could work. I agree it is all about the money for Ashley. He is stripping as much as he can out of the club every year – maybe averaging c£40 million pa. More last year. IMHO the sickening Tat Direct advertising is valuable for him but is not his primary driver any more. Money money money.

  • Leicester Mag

    Easy in case of Newcastle all gone on German/Scottish forward Housa Fraser.

  • Pezza

    The problem with this is that you want new owners, telling them what to do will not attract new people into owning football clubs. If each club is told the % if income that must be spent on each area, then you will simply keep the table as it is and we will forever be 10th place or thereabouts.

    Ffp has gone towards this, your proposal goes the whole hog.

    • X2

      I see this proposal as supporting all owners who want their club to be the best it can be. That’s a good thing. It will deter owners and potential owners who want to strip money out of their clubs. It could have an impact sooner rather than later – If the idea gains any traction at all just the the risk of the change could push plenty of poisonous owners out of the game.

      • Pezza

        But simply prescribed spending in s fixed manner

    • JohnnyH

      It needn’t be totally prescriptive, it’s about putting checks and balances in at the right transactional point, to ensure the money goes where the PL intended.

  • Hughie

    If I ran a TV company I would want to know why any club is clearly not investing in a team to provide top quality entertainment. If it is clear that a club is not providing value for money I would insist on an impartial external audit with a threat of not showing any matches involving that club and then blacklisting it for any further payments. At a stroke a damning audit would remove the SD/ MASH international platform.

  • mactoon

    First off Johnny, “, if Ashley was required to spend, or at least legally commit, all of the £123.000.000 on the club this year, being legally barred from moving the money elsewhere, he might sell”

    If he didn’t commit the TV money into paying the clubs bills it would sink without trace. The majority of the annual tv money is used to run the club (the wage bill takes around 60% of this straight away)

    If the money has been moved elsewhere it will be documented in the accounts which aren’t published til next year (There are company rules to limit how money is moved and I’m sure you can’t just ‘move’ money elsewhere). For all the people who continually say he is taking money out of the business there has never been any proof that this is happening. But I do agree there is a visible lack of investment of the club’s money into the club.

    On to the main gist of your article, I totally agree that if the Premier League are to give the huge amount of money to the clubs they should do so with enforceable RULES attached to ensure it is used the way it is intended. The problem is, at the moment the PL only provides unenforceable guidance in terms of what the clubs should do with it. Here’s another way to approach it:

    One of the guest speakers at The Magpie Group’s open meeting on 3 October is due to be Kevin Miles, Chief Executive of the Football Supporters Federation (FSF) and I’ve sent him an email setting out much the same as your article and asked if it is something he would get involved with:

    “The collective and central way the Premier League markets its rights and distributes revenues to clubs supports them in their efforts to develop and acquire talented players, build and improve stadiums”

    I appreciate this is just guidance from the Premier League and on the face of it, unenforceable, but do they have any leverage or power to intervene if the money they give out is not spent in accordance with their guidelines?

    • Oldgeordie

      If you are correct about the club’s expenditure then after wages there is still about £60 million (123 +20 – 60%) left plus gate receipts. If we are shopping in the basement for players in January why hasn’t some of that money been used to repay the debt? Is it still in the bank?

      • mactoon

        It will be in the bank but not yet accounted for and mainly be spent on other things, player purchase payments to other teams, pension schemes, director and staff wages, tax, NI, leasehold payments electricity trade debts, catering and so on. Check the accounts, they are open to public viewing. I doubt he has any intention of repaying the debts. Rumour has it there could be tax benefits on such loans

    • JohnnyH

      With respect I disagree that the TV money is taken up running the club and paying the wage bill, and the club would sink without trace if his hands were tied. The figures are £25.000.000 gate receipts, £28.000.000 commercial income. Add that to the remainder of £123.000.000 after your 60% wage bill is deducted and knock off let’s say £5.000.000 running costs other than wages and you’re still left with around £121.800.000

      I never directly accused Ashley of moving money out of the club, my point was that it’s not being spent on the club also that the PL handbook should insist upon the TV money being used as intended.

      Lastly I made contact with the Magpie Group recently, and they’ve agreed to ask Kevin Miles to speak about this kind of proposal at the forthcoming meeting.

      • mactoon

        No disrespect taken mate, none of us really know the true figures, it’s all clever accounting, I’m just pointing out that there is a lot of money spent running a football club and the TV money goes an awfully long way to running it. Without it, many clubs would be in trouble.

        For example, the last accounts showed a £90 million operating loss due to the Championship season and Premiership tv money lost. The bigger than normal wage bill which was actually 130% of the income for that year. Gate receipts were down to £23.4m Commercial Income was down to £12.1m and Ashley had to loan the club a further £15m.

        This year will be better due to the amount of times we’ve been on tv but I seriously doubt we will have anywhere near the £90m you suggest.

        I didn’t say you accusing Ashley of taking money out, I stated it would be difficult for him to do so and there is no proof that he has.

        But let’s not let the figures cloud the true purpose of the post, the fact is he is not investing the money in the club the way the PL guidelines suggest and maybe it is something Kevin Miles can look into now he has been asked by both of us 😃

        The email contact for anyone else who wants to get in touch with the FSF is (without the spaces)

        info @ fsf . org . uk

  • Viru leckworth

    I know where the money has gone… I have just received four badges and a pen from NUFC thanking me for my support.