The parallels in terms of how Mike Ashley treats Newcastle United and Sports Direct shareholders and staff, grow ever stronger.

It can be summed up in just one word, contempt.

With Newcastle United, Mike Ashley stays well clear of the club, at least on the surface.

He hasn’t been to a Newcastle United home match since Tottenham on the opening day of the 2017/18 season, the weekend when he launched his Sky Sports attack on both Rafa Benitez and the Newcastle fans. One of the most embarrassing ‘interviews’ you could wish to see, presided over by his associate David Craig, the NUFC owner allowed an unchallenged platform to put out his distorted view of everything that was/wasn’t happening at St James Park.

As for the running of the club, Mike Ashley pretends that Lee Charnley makes all the decisions, including what does and doesn’t happen on transfers. That suggestion is laughable, Charnley earning a pittance compared to all of the other executives who DO run Premier League clubs on their owner’s behalf. The last available figures showing Charnley earns less than 3% of what one other PL club top executive gets and less than a quarter of what Sunderland’s top paid executive got at that time.

Instead, it is widely reported that the shadowy figures of Justin Barnes and Keith Bishop are the ones to pull the strings at Newcastle United. Answerable to nobody but Ashley himself and no access given to the media, or indeed fans.

The contempt for fans is obvious, the club’s own official NUFC Fans Forum is a joke, even though the club handpick which supporters are allowed on the forum – rather than voted on by fellow fans, Mike Ashley refused to allow the Fans Forum to meet club officials for the entirety of last season, until safety from relegation was achieved in April. The latest fans forum had been scheduled for over four months but was cancelled on the very eve of the meeting, Ashley never having had any intention of letting the meeting happen with awkward questions set to be asked, particularly with regard to the disgraceful treatment of Rafa Benitez and no net spending  allowed on transfers. The claim that the Fans Forum had to be cancelled at such a late point because Lee Charnley was suddenly too busy to make it, was simply laughable.

However, it isn’t just Newcastle fans who Mike Ashley is willing to treat with total contempt.

This Wednesday sees the Sports Direct AGM, the Chief Executive and controlling [61%] shareholder set to be asked all kinds of awkward questions, the one time when SD shareholders get a chance to face him.

Ashley’s response? He has refused to turn up.

The SD supremo telling the shareholders that he is too busy to attend the AGM of a company he controls.

A company that has seen its share price reduce by over 10% (407p on 9 August – 362p at close of business on 9 September), a period of time that has coincided with the football season kicking off and week after week of fan protests attacking Sports Direct by various means online, as well as protesting outside stores.

Sports Direct seen very much as Ashley’s ‘Achilles Heel’, the thing that he really cares about and which is at the heart of where he gets his wealth and power from.

A new report in The Guardian (see below) portrays the City of London’s regulations on controlling bad behaviour as on a similar level to the Premier League’s, or maybe even worse when you consider just how many people’s lives are reliant on such a large business as Sports Direct.

When it comes to those who oppose the tyrant, The Guardian say: ‘Ashley can simply brush them [dissenting shareholders] aside like an alpha silverback gorilla swatting flies.’

Mike Ashley won’t be at the Sports Direct AGM on Wednesday but his controlling block of 61% worth of shares will be, just as his 100% worth of Newcastle United shares sits there, with Newcastle fans feeling the situation is all but hopeless if he refuses to sell the club.

It looks clear that Newcastle fans though are getting to the club’s owner, by targeting that thing he treasures more than anything, Sports Direct.

Who knows what his breaking point will/would be in deciding Newcastle United is more trouble than it is worth to him – but there is only one route to go, to keep up the campaign and help keep interfering in his running of Sports Direct by all legal means available.

The Guardian:

‘As the owner of Newcastle United Football Club, Sports Direct tycoon Mike Ashley is used to being shouted at for 90 minutes by angry people dissatisfied with his stewardship.

Happily, he will face no such ordeal at next week’s Sports Direct annual meeting, thanks to a stroke of genius on his part. He isn’t going to show up.

It’s rather unusual for a company to hold an AGM without the presence of its chief executive, not to mention its largest shareholder.

But then Ashley, who, a court heard, once vomited into a fireplace during a drinking session with business associates, is no ordinary chief executive.

In the retail billionaire’s absence, investors are expected to air grievances about the company’s rather idiosyncratic governance style. The list of shareholder gripes is extensive. Among them is the company’s habit of dishing out huge piles of cash to Ashley’s family members.

Michael Murray, engaged to Ashley’s daughter Anna, was handed a £5m deal as “head of elevation”, in charge of revamping stores. The payout was revealed on the same day as Sports Direct investors were treated to an £85m writedown linked to the company’s investment in Debenhams, a decision that has proved to be another source of irritation.

The familial largesse doesn’t stop there. Independent shareholders had to step in last year to block a proposed £11m payout to Ashley’s brother

Ashley can simply brush them [dissenting shareholders] aside like an alpha silverback gorilla swatting flies.

He owns 61% of Sports Direct, giving him a voting bloc that trumps anyone else’s, and there is nothing in the UK’s feather-light City regulations to stop him doing as he pleases.

Besides, he has other fish to fry. After buying department store chain House of Fraser out of administration earlier this year, the retail tycoon promised to transform the ailing brand into the “Harrods of the high street”. Now that is a task that makes Newcastle United reaching the Champions League look like a doddle.



  • Paul Patterson

    Sadly, he could straight bat the Newcastle United situation for a long time. He doesn’t care and he doesn’t need to. There’s nothing stopping him.

    • JohnnyH

      I agree with you there’s nothing stopping him, although I think we could make more of the missing millions.

      Putting pressure on the government to make the financial transactions between the PL and club owners more transparent might be a tactic to consider alongside targeting SD?

      At the minute £2.5 billion TV money gets dished out this season and PL clubs Are only given ‘guidelines’ from the PL on how to use it.

      He might become more inclined to sell up, if the TV money spending rules were tightened up. As in it has to be reinvested in the club, not buying ailing high street stores.

      • Sickandtired

        Agree on PL rules, but let’s drop the nonsense about buying stores etc. SD bought HoF, not Ashley personally.
        Any profits being siphoned out of the club go to MASH, not SD.

        • JohnnyH

          Agreed, but I can’t bring myself to think of MASH, SD and Ashley having scrupulously honest accounting.
          Personally I think he’s not beneath cooking the books.

          • Sickandtired

            I don’t doubt that for a single minute. I’ve been having a [email protected]@ing match with someone on another post about his sale of the Gallowgate land. Chappy seems to believe the club got £6 million for it, when in fact it was £2.5 million (another £2.5 million borrowing was already in, and left on, the books) and that went to St James Holdings!
            If he profits however, it’ll be for him personally.

  • t00nraider

    Ashley spent £50mil trying to keep us up in the Premiership, but it was McClaren and Mitrovic who cost us Premiership status. Sports Direct is his company and he wants to pay a family member a big bonus because he’s family, who wouldn’t? Things will pick up for the club under Rafa when we get a few easier games and our best players back on the pitch. There was money in the bank before the McClaren spending spree. There should be money in the bank for a couple of decent signings in January to continue our step up.

    • AhDivvinNahNootMe

      Unless he decides to pay that to family members too !

    • JohnCornwell’sHair

      He made up a role with a bonus of £5 million pounds for his son in law and somehow that’s ok cause’ ” who wouldn’t?”. It’s not all of his money to spend, people have invested in his business and all he wants to do is give their money to his own family.
      As for “there should be money in the bank”, i agree there should be, will any of it be spent in January? Nowhere near enough of it.

      • Sickandtired

        Aye – isn’t it strange how it’s apparently nowt more than ‘wallpaper’ to him, except when it comes to doling it out to family and cronies?
        What a pity he can’t bring himself to re-paper the clubs walls.

    • TheFatController

      SD is the shareholder’s company, of which he is the largest shareholder.

      If he gives a family member £11m, other people own 39% of that amount. Not sure they see that ‘gift’ as being filed under ‘well, who wouldn’t?’

      But yes, I suppose It’s never fair on the original owner when they have a public share issue to raise money and then can’t give that money to family…

    • Sickandtired

      It’s a PLC, you numpty. January signings under Ashley are as rare as Unicorns. The profits are being saved up again for Rafa’s replacement in the summer – no doubt another prehistoric lower league Englishman which seem to be Fatty’s type.

    • gordon

      ‘Ashley spent a record £70mil net to try stay in the Premiership and push up the league’ – this was your comment on another thread less than 24 hours ago; will it be down to £30mil by tomorrow? Please use figures which cover the entirety of the Ashley debacle if you wish to make a valid defense of your god-emperor. I imagine you won’t, because you can’t.

      • TheFatController

        Clearly he’s suffering exchange rate fluctuations ….

    • Wezza

      I highly doubt that we will be spending anything in January. MA knows Rafa will keep us up. You say there should be money in the bank… yes, 123M TV money was available in the summer and was not touched. After the summer we have just had surely people must realise by now that he will never change and there can be no more ‘if he invests’ He won’t even invest the clubs money.

  • Steve Smith

    What was that unusually large line of expenditure in the last published accounts titled again?

  • AhDivvinNahNootMe

    Picture a ‘Wor Flags’ banner across the Gallowgate that reads “We Are United” with a big JD Sports logo on it during a live broadcast. No disruption to players or Manager, talking point for the Media and just possibly a minor irritation to Jabba and fuel on the SD shareholder fire.

    Also, there was a (terrible) club who once wore yellow and green shirts instead of red ones as a protest. I don’t need to remind anyone who they were, we all know even though it was years ago. It became a ‘badge of honour’ for the real fan and the media explained it to the rest of us. Maybe there is a Toon fan who can print or point the way to JD Sports T shirts for the real fans. No money to Jabba in the fake club shop and real fans will be able to identify each other more easily and going to games will suddenly have a really important purpose which again is non disruptive to Rafa and the team.

    We won’t get to him if we don’t make the most of the limited tools and platform we still have. At 75% disgruntled, 75% of 52,000 in JD shirts and just generally away from the stadium when sporting your colours is a clear message of interference and something that “Unites” the fractious nature of our discord whilst we attempt to become more structured. It’s deeply visual and pictures speak a thousand words. Crikey, I’d wear anything with JD sports on it right now, even a pinny just so people would ask me why.

    • Cockneytrev

      This kind of thing would annoy him and get the medias attention,,, but the logistics would be difficult,,
      (The banner would not get into the ground),,
      maybe start anti Ashley banners at televised away matches ?

      • AhDivvinNahNootMe

        Good point. And Great idea, away clubs not likely to restrict the banner since it’s not offensive in any way (unless you’re Jabba). Logistics of the Shirt is just a weblink to a shirt we can all buy with a JD sports logo on it and as more fans see it and ask about it word of mouth will do the rest. Wear a jacket over it to get into the ground if necessary.

        It doesn’t have to be black and white, almost better if it isn’t as it will stand out more and the colours will show Rafa and the boys that we are united behind them and each other, but not Jabba.

    • Paul Patterson

      Er, I’m sure he has shares in JD.

      • Kenny

        i think he has as well, the guys a virus

      • AhDivvinNahNootMe

        Gutted. We must be able to promote a direct competitor he doesn’t have an indirect reward from though, even if we need to figure out who it is.

  • Down Under Mag

    The problem is that Ashley has the controlling stake in SD and therefore in his mind he controls everyone else, they are simply along for the ride to give him money when he floats the company stock. He will continue to do whatever he wants to because he can. Unless it begins to hit him financially then he has no incentive to change. Money is the only thing he cares about, so sad that in becoming richer he is literally becoming the most hated man in the country and not just by NUFC fans anymore.

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