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Just received a reply from Under Secretary of State for Sport’s office to my Mike Ashley letter

8 months ago
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I recently posted an article on how to hopefully help get rid of Mike Ashley.

In it I mentioned writing to Tracey Crouch MP, the Under Secretary of State for Sport and Civil Society, about the way the club is being run.

The original letter is here below, also further on is the response I received from the Minister’s department;

My original letter:

‘I write to you as a lifelong supporter of Newcastle United, with great concerns regarding how the club is being run.

My understanding is that the Premier League makes an annual central payment, to Premier League clubs, which consists of money paid by TV companies, in return for broadcasting rights.

This season Newcastle United are in receipt of £123.000.000.

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.”

Whilst it is difficult to estimate how many millions of pounds have been paid to Newcastle United in previous seasons, what is evident to supporters such as myself, there has been little if any money spent as intended by the Premier League, on the club or its infrastructure.

The Premier League currently does not audit how the central payment is used by clubs, which in itself could allow club owners to use this money for their own business interests, without let or hindrance.

This season approximately £2.4 billion pounds will be paid to Premier League clubs, ostensibly to be reinvested back into each individual club and the local community.

I find it completely unacceptable that club owners are not accountable for how these huge sums of money are used. I therefore ask you to give this matter your attention, and I would be most grateful if you could respond to me with details of how you propose to address my concerns,

Yours faithfully etc…’

The response;

‘Thank you for your correspondence of 19 September to the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Sport and Civil Society, Tracey Crouch MP, about Newcastle Football Club (FC). As I am sure you will appreciate, the Minister is unable to respond to all the letters she receives. I am replying as a member of the Ministerial Support Team at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

I understand your concerns about the management of Newcastle United FC.

As you may be aware, this issue was raised by Chi Onwurah MP in a recent parliamentary petition. DCMS will issue a formal response to Chi Onwurah in due course and a record of this will be published in Hansard, which is the official report of Parliament. I would recommend that you keep an eye on the Hansard website for further updates: https://hansard.parliament.uk/.

To the best of our knowledge the owners of Newcastle United are complying with all the stringent ownership and financial rules football has in place.

If there is any evidence to the contrary then this needs to be brought to the attention of the Premier League. Any action would then be at the League’s discretion.

We are aware that many football fans are unhappy with the current spending at the club and are therefore recommending that the owners carefully consider what further engagement is needed to provide the assurance that supporters are calling for.

I hope this information is helpful.

Yours sincerely,

Ministerial Support Team’

While the response is pretty much what I expected, judging from the last paragraph, I think they missed the point somewhat, in that whilst I’m concerned about the club’s spending (or complete lack of it), the main concern is more centered around the current dispersal of money from the Premier League to club owners, as currently there is no requirement for club owners to provide a return to the Premier League detailing what the funds are being used for.

Yes the Mike Ashley apologists will say that this information can be seen in the annual statement of accounts that clubs have to produce, but I would argue that this is not good enough.

We, the consumers should be given detailed information on how the funds are being used, for example on how the Youth Academy and training facilities are developing in both the long awaited structural improvements as well as the new talent we’re bringing through (Don’t laugh). Plus what the club is doing for grass roots football in our area – again, just a couple of examples.

For me the root of the problem lies in the current structure of football governance in this country.

The Premier League is set up as a corporation of its twenty constituent member clubs. So put simply, they get the TV money and share it out amongst themselves.

So you could argue that asking them to report on themselves, may be considered a bit incestuous and may not always deliver the desired outcome. Therefore should it be the Football Association (whose role it is to oversee the Premier League), who should be required to obtain and provide reports, from the Premier League, on how these funds are used?

As I said previously, cleaning up football may be a long game but any kind of reform that gives transparency and prevents asset stripping has got to be a good thing. Unscrupulous business people may be inclined to look elsewhere if it becomes more difficult to siphon off money for themselves over and above what is generally considered to be an acceptable dividend.

In the meantime, creating a hostile atmosphere by our collective actions may help to bring attention to our situation at the toon.

We’ve got to keep up the pressure on Ashley in as many ways as possible. Targeting his businesses is having an undoubted effect. The national prominence of the campaigning and protesting is there to see, and some of the more decent and upstanding public figures like Alan Shearer and Ian Wright are doing their bit.

So if you think that having a political line of attack is worth doing, feel free to write to those in power and opposition.

Every little helps and it’s got to be better than doing nothing.
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