Another frustrating transfer window, another poor start, another season-long battle to reach the “coveted” 17th place, after which Mike Ashley pockets the TV money and the cycle begins again.

Eventually the gamble will fail and we will be relegated with no guarantee of returning next time. This cannot go on, yet seemingly there is no alternative. Somehow we have to get rid of this owner. The biggest problems for Newcastle United fans to take their club forward and get rid of the obnoxious Mike Ashley, are the imbalance of resources, and the imbalance of needs.

The imbalance of resources is that Mike Ashley is a billionaire, whereas very few true Newcastle fans are even millionaires, and for many the prospect of being an investor in NUFC seems very remote (shares are not publicly traded).

The imbalance of needs is that we need NUFC more than Ashley does. On the one hand, in financial terms the club is a minor property of MASH Holdings, and liquidation is an option which would be painful but not terminal in the scheme of things. Ashley has also been clever enough to saddle the club with £140 million of “interest-free-loan” which will be recovered from any liquidation or sale. On the other it is the loss of 126 years of local history, regional pride and community.

When we look at Rangers, Hereford or Darlington, we realise just how difficult it is to rebuild a football club once the original club has been effectively (and in the eyes of the law) destroyed.

Another aspect of the imbalance is that I believe that Mike Ashley to be a misanthropic individual who measures their personal worth and self-esteem, not by the good they can do, but by the extent that they can damage other people’s lives and make them miserable. To that extent, the more we protest and express our anger while lining his pockets, the happier he is. If he worries about people’s opinion of him he would have gone years ago.

What then is Mike Ashley’s interest in Newcastle United?

Clearly he believes that investing in players, ground, training ground and academy to create a first team capable of competing in the Champions League and challenging for the Premier League Championship, would not achieve the return on investment that he is seeking. He is clearly obtaining other benefits from his ownership.

As well as the traditional revenues accruing to football club owners such as gate receipts, sponsorship, and commercial revenues, we can add the Premier League TV deal and other PL revenues. Bizarrely for a top club, we can also add player trading due to the infamous “blueprint” which prioritises the resale value of the player ahead of any contribution he may make to on-field success.

Added to all this is the contribution NUFC makes to Sports Direct. NUFC shops have been eliminated as competition to SD; the adverts all around the ground and in the “mixed zone” seen by millions on TV are given free by the club; the players are roped in to promote SD stores. These hidden revenues and benefits clearly have substantial value to Sports Direct.

The campaign to liberate NUFC depends on changing the two imbalances outlines above. Despite all the angry fans calling for a boycott of the home games, attacking the club revenues is unlikely to be successful as it will only damage the club without hurting Ashley in any significant way. The imbalance of need means that the fans will have difficulty mobilising a real effort to financially damage their club. Meanwhile Ashley can afford to sit back and do nothing. There is therefore a need to address the imbalances in the present situation and level up the playing field.

If Ashley were to offer the club to the fans tomorrow we would have an incredible task to raise the asking, even if it was a fair price. The Supporters Trust therefore needs to build up a considerable asset base. This will best be in businesses which complement eventual ownership of the club. At one time it seemed like investing in a brewery and a chain of pubs would be ideal but that whole industry is struggling at the moment. Investing in local sports goods shops and leisure retailers may also serve to attack SD directly (see below). With continuing investment by fans in the Trust, and profits ploughed back into further expansion, the capacity to buy out any owner of the club will steadily increase. It may even be strategically wise to build up a holding in Sports Direct itself as a bargaining chip.

The second imbalance to address is that we need the club more than Ashley does. Damaging the club through boycotts is not a long-term option for us and he knows it. As long as his wealth is outside the club he is beyond reach. We therefore need to reduce the  wealth represented by Sports Direct. The threat of a sustained campaign against SD is something Ashley is afraid of; note how quickly the KBA propaganda machine has been rolled out into action as our attention has shifted to SD. Ashley is apparently fond of the phrase “parking his tanks on the lawn.” Well, by targeting Sports Direct we are parking our tanks on his lawn. Hitting Sports Direct to the point where the benefits of NUFC ownership are less than the damage to the rest of the empire and NUFC is sold off to save the rest, is  I believe a viable strategy. If the only willing buyer is NUST then it is win-win.

The potential is there. Sports Direct has stores nationwide and further but we have fans in many places too. There is a Sports Direct store in Dundalk where I live – there is also a group of fans who meet in a local pub to watch matches on TV and arrange trips to SJP. There is an SD and a House of Fraser in Dublin: there are Mags there too. Just about every store in the UK will have its own little group judging by those I have met on away trips. It is this breadth of approach which will lead to be success. Two thousand people outside the Northumberland Street store is impressive and gets headlines: four people outside every SD store will be far more effective, especially if they peacefully dissuade customers from entering the SD stores and to take their custom elsewhere, and get local media coverage while doing so. We can also take the fight to anyone associated with him: his PR people, auditors and solicitors.

Don’t forget, we have allies. Unite the Union campaigns against the poor terms and conditions at the Shirebrook Depot. There are also concerns about zero hours contracts among shop staff. Going on past history House of Fraser staff are facing a massive attack on their wages and conditions. Fair-trade campaigners are unhappy about the working conditions in SD overseas suppliers. Customers are unhappy about the contempt with which they are treated. Even fans of other clubs are often sympathetic to our cause, particularly Rangers, who were infected by him too. To borrow a current phrase, “we are many.”

What is needed is an effective campaign network to focus on Sports Direct.

This would cover:

Organisers: every SD store to have a designated contact to organise against it;

Material: leaflets, contact cards, “five reasons not to shop at Sports Direct” cards etc;

Publicity, photos, tweets of activity.

The aim is not to destroy Ashley, but to make his continued ownership of NUFC a liability to the point where it is in his long-term interests to sell at a fair price. Either he goes or the club dies, it’s that simple. It’s us or him.

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  • Wezza

    Too true! Keep up the pressure!
    I just heard season ticket holders got a pen and some badges “thanking” them for their support.
    First thought?
    Keith Bishop PR to quell the protests. Well get what Keith? We are not stopping until your master sells our club!

    • Toontaff

      First thought : Where can I insert the pen?

      • toonterrier

        I’m sure fattys shop sells inkwells

        • Ron

          It was a quill??????

    • Toontaff

      Apparently, Rafa is getting a pen and badge set, along with one of those NUFC plastic buckets retailing for £2.50 on nufc direct! Time to scupper his plan, by adding all stock of those plastic buckets to my basket!
      No wayis Bishop getting awaywith his PR about Rafa actually getting a pot to p1$$ in!

  • Ashley-out

    Protest then go & buy a shirt off the oaf, then go to the match.

  • Billyboy

    I’m up for it. I’ve had enough

  • Toontaff

    No, buy shirt, then protest!

  • Kenny

    Southgate is at St James today, this is the guy who will sign a new 4 year contract with the FA for beating 2 pub teams & then a championship standard one on penalties.
    he is here to watch a Leicester midfield player & not Shelvey.

    • BanJones

      He’s a super hero “The Overhyped Waistcoat”

  • Paul Patterson

    It would be interesting if every season ticket holder walked past the ground today and dropped the pen and badge set off at Milburn reception . .

    • Toontaff

      They’d be on sale later at the club shop!

      • Leazes.

        The club doesn’t have a shop.

        • Toontaff

          I’ve been on there, filling up another shopping basket!
          There are plenty of protesters wearing his new strip, Fun888, as you can see on the BBC video. Not bought a top or any other NUFC product for over 10 years.

          • BigHairyDog

            Might be cheap Chinese knock offs or bought from Start Fitness, they get them direct from Puma.

      • Paul Patterson

        You mean ‘NUFC Direct’? The clue’s in the word ‘Direct’.

      • Albert Stubbins

        Ha ha. Class.

  • Leicester Mag

    Target the flag ship store Lillywhites

  • Carverlier football

    I agree that targetting SD will probably be the most effective strategy. Why don’t travelling fans go and protest outside the local SD store before away games where possible? Might be worth at the very least targetting the “flagship” Oxford Street store on one of our trips to the capital, that could get some attention…

    • Leicester Mag

      Agree see below its called Lillywhites used to be the best sports store in the country until Fat boy fat got hold of it

    • graham18

      Every little helps!!!

  • mentalman

    Instead of trying to organise a boycott of home games why not boycott away games. A totally empty away section at a game will get far more publicity than a few missing at home

    There will also be financial implications if the club dont sell the ticket allocation

    • Realist

      Not a chance i including many others won’t boycott home games never mind away games. Some belter away days if we go down milwall leeds Boro sheff clubs Bristol city, Portsmouth mackems potentially. Fans with abit of life in them, nowt in the premiership but always better for the club to be in the prem. Your suggestion made me chuckle a little bit I have to admit. What I don’t get is why you and many other want to try and make people follow what you and others ( the minority ) want to do, just let people live and let live and your lot can get on with your pisy bed sheet protests outside of sport direct shops and filling online baskets up with thousands of pounds worth of gear. Sad.

      • mentalman

        Im not getting why it made you chuckle. It was a suggestion on boycotting and to a degree a criticism as a lot on here who advocate boycotting home games and abuse fans who do go, like to make sure everyone knows they are a real fan and never miss an away game.
        I suggest you read some of my previous posts on this matter, I’ve made it quite clear i dont agree with the protests and don’t think they will achieve what the organisers hope they will. I have also never criticised any fan for choosing to attend games

        • Realist

          👍

  • Toontaff

    Wonder if The Fantastic Four will be at SJP, today?

    • graham18

      They might turn up but they will get even worse treatment than at Crystal Palace last week.There again the FCB and his crew are too spineless for that.Bring it on!!

  • Elon

    It’s useless to do shouting and demonstration actions, the clown Ashley doesn’t care about all that as long as there is still an advantage for him. The only way to make him sell Newcastle is boycott and don’t buy all the products that benefit him, including buying tickets to watch at St. James Park.

  • mactoon

    Having read the article I’m a little confused. You suggest the NUST (listed on their website at 100 members) as a potential buyer by raising cash to the value of £300+ million through fan investments and investment in local sports good and leisure shops and possibly SD itself?

    Even the Magpie Group have done little more than protests outside SD shops, a far better strategy would be for the group to draft up a brochure setting out the benefits of NUFC and try to attract a buyer or consortium who could actually afford to buy it and have the skillset to run it.

  • Pezza

    The problem is VB that football fans are all mouth, we need a new owner and the only way is to cough up our own money and buy the club ourselves.

    • mactoon

      we couldn’t afford it, or run it. We need to attract a buyer

      • Pezza

        Fans buy a share, shareholders appoint people to run it.

        If we can’t afford to buy between fans, then being able to hold a part share in the hands of fans would be desirable.

        If Kenyon is currently looking for funding, Having a £50m fans bloc would not only be practically useful, it also will provide some comfort to other investors that a fan revolt would not be around the corner

        • mactoon

          I’ve said this since the Staveley bid. If he wants £300 million and the bidder only offers £250 million then get “The Magpie Group” to do something other than complain and protest. BUT we need to attract a buyer.

          Put out an ‘expression of interest’ to the fans and ask them to commit to investing say £500 each in order to get shares in the club and add it to the potential buyers bid. It would take 100,000 investors to make the £50 million It doesn’t need to be £500 if you can afford less, fine. If you can afford more (Shearer, Ant and Dec, Jimmy Nail, and so on) invest more and raise the public profile. We have so many rich Geordie celebrities who are doing NOTHING !!! but if we don’t ask who is willing to get involved we will never know how much we can contribute. I lay the task directly on the doorstep of the magpie group, isn’t that why they formed?

          All it takes is the magpie group to either converse with a potential buyer (Peter Kenyon for example) or attract another potential buyer with this idea.