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Opinion

Mike Ashley isn’t going anywhere whilst 20,000 Newcastle fans are happy to be bought off

6 months ago
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How to solve a problem like Mike Ashley, it’s not easy.

He has massively benefited, and continues to do so, from his ownership of Newcastle United, so why would he have any interest in selling it?

It is like selling the proverbial golden goose, why would you trade it on when it is still popping out those golden eggs?

Mike Ashley pretends to be this tortured football club owner, if only there was somebody out there willing to take on this terrible burden…

Whilst in reality of course, Newcastle United has been a key cog in the machinery supporting his massive retail empire expansion, as well as diversification into many other areas, including property development.

The football club has provided over a decade of free advertising/promotion to Sports Direct and the rest, Ashley becoming a whole lot richer thanks to buying the club back in 2007.

He is trying to sell the club I hear some of you shout. Oh no he’s not would be the truthful and topical refrain.

If you started (honestly) trying to sell something in 2008, as Mike Ashley claims, then still not being able to sell it over 10 years later would make him one of the worst businessmen/traders ever. He might be one of the worst people you could (not) wish to meet but he certainly isn’t daft when it comes to business, especially buying and selling on.

Protests are of course on the agenda at the minute.

Newcastle fans following a series of pre-match demonstrations outside Ashley’s shops and St James Park, with an 11th minute walk-in at the West Ham match.

A bit of a daft idea as it was not really one thing or the other and only a limited number carried it through.

Hopefully many more will take part in the proper/only protest next Sunday, when fans are asked to send Mike Ashley a warning when Newcastle take on Wolves. Supporters asked to back a boycott of the match and a message that large number of empty seats would be the future if he keeps refusing to sell the club.

In all the Mike Ashley stuff and protests etc, I’m amazed I have seen no (as far as I can see) mention/discussion of a vital part of the owner’s reason for staying.

At the moment he has successfully bought off around 20,000 Newcastle fans and until that changes then I can’t see any chance of getting rid of him.

These are the people currently on the long-term deals. Which basically means that Ashley has knocked some money off if you continue to tie yourself to a season ticket that needs to be effectively renewed halfway through the previous season.

So unless you cancel in January, you will then start paying for next (2019/20) season months before this current (2018/19) one if ended.

At the time the long-term deals were introduced it was all about ‘rewarding’ fans, which surely nobody ever believed was the reason for introducing them.

Instead, I think we can trace back the moment that set the long-term deals in motion to the 15 August 2009.

Newcastle had been relegated for the first (but not the last…) time under Mike Ashley and the club appeared to be in meltdown.

Chris Hughton would prove to be a massive success, until sacked by Ashley…, but he had been eventually given the caretaker manager’s job simply because he was available and cheap.

Ashley sold every player there was an offer for and didn’t allow Hughton to buy anybody, instead having to rely on only signing loans and free agents in summer 2009.

After drawing at West Brom in the first match of the Championship season, Newcastle played Reading at home.

The crowd was 36,944.

With success and Hughton & the players convincing the supporters, crowds did eventually end up averaging over 43,000 but the first sell out at home was the very final game of the season at St James Park.

Relegation and Mike Ashley getting rid of a popular figure (in 2009 it was Alan Shearer) had delivered the owner’s worst nightmare, massive sections of empty seats in front of his Sports Direct adverts at St James Park.

I think at that moment, it sparked the process whereby the idea of the long-term season tickets came into being, a way of helping to protect the crowd figures if he once again brought disaster to the club.

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Whilst Rafa Benitez undoubtedly played a huge part, the next (2016/17) Championship campaign saw crowds on average over 51,000 that were surely undoubtedly helped by the fact tens of thousands of fans had already paid a number of months payments by the time NUFC were relegated in 2015/16. Fans were also told that once past January you couldn’t even cancel, though the reality is that people have cancelled after any particular January by simply stopping their direct debit, the club having to accept it.

So moving forward, at the minute we have these 20,000 Newcastle fans currently bought off by the owner, friends of mine currently paying around £150 less than me because they are long-term dealers. Whereas I refused to be tied to his manipulative deal a few years ago and simply pay season by season, it costs more but it means that each summer I can make my choice, rather than Ashley having me where he wants me.

If nothing changes, then Mike Ashley knows that even if Newcastle are relegated in the summer and he forces Rafa Benitez out, he still has as a starting point these 20,000 he has bought off.

Once you add 3,000+ away fans in the Championship (we had many more away fans visiting in 2016/17 than in any PL season), the corporates and so on, you are probably heading up to 30,000 crowds already, before you then add season ticket holders who decide if they renew each summer and fans who pay match by match.Before long I think you are probably looking at a minimum of 40,000 crowds in the second tier, with those 20,000 long-termers serving as the foundations.

It isn’t for me to tell people what to do but I can say I am far happier paying a little bit more, knowing Mike Ashley doesn’t have me in the palm of his hand.

Just think how you will feel if you remain in a long-term deal and then this summer we are heading to the Championship, Rafa Benitez has been pushed/walked, once again there has been a massive profit made on transfer deals, and once again Ashley then takes millions out of the club once the summer 2019 transfer window closes?

My mates are pulling out of their long-term deals next month so they can wait and see what happens before deciding whether to get a season ticket for next season. Every person who does the same will make Mike Ashley think that little bit more that it is maybe time he did sell up.
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