Last Saturday, I was one of the relatively few Newcastle fans who walked in 11 minutes late, the majority of equally loyal fans did not do so , and I have no doubt that they included many who can match or beat my 50 year tenure.

To quote Abraham Lincoln “All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

If asked to do so, I will also boycott on Sunday and once again, I have no doubt that the majority of Newcastle fans will once again choose to turn up and support the team. Loyalty in the face of adversity is what makes us special and I  perfectly understand and respect this logic . However,  on a personal level , I feel that  I could not criticise Ashley as much as I do, and then not support the action.

I would, however, like to challenge two elements of  logic often used against those campaigning against Ashley:

One is that he ‘already had your season ticket money’.  Of course this is true but I think it misses the point. When the original ‘United Supporters for Change’ boycotted against McKeag in the late 80s, season ticket income made up 80% of the club’s income  and a boycott had a direct impact on club income. Today’s matchday income is only about a sixth of the club’s revenue and mostly locked in by season ticket holders. So, on the face of it a boycott has limited impact. Even if  10% of fans boycotted it would have no immediate cost, and even if they (the 10%) all failed to renew season tickets, it would only cost the club  £2-3m.

However, don’t underestimate  the impact that empty seats, and the ongoing external campaign against Sports Direct, has on advertisers and on television companies.  Commercial companies do not wish to be associated with toxic brands.  If advertisers were spooked, or TV companies decided to reduce the number of home televised games, the financial exposure  to the club and or sports direct could be potentially several tens of £ millions, season ticket money is insignificant by comparison.

The other key objection is that Mike Ashley doesn’t care, protest is futile. This has some resonance. I’m pretty sure Mike slept pretty well on Saturday night given low levels of support  for the 11 min walk in – though he was sufficiently concerned beforehand to ensure that ALL TVs in the walkways had been turned off and were not showing the game! A boycott would not change anything overnight but as part of the overall picture it can have an impact.

Bear in mind that Sports Direct has not exactly been untarnished in the last two years, castigated by ‘Which’ for poor customer service, by the unions for treatment of their people, and by MPs in parliament and at parliamentary committees . The constant campaigns against him generate more and more bad publicity and cannot be helpful for the Sports Direct brand.

Is it all futile? Well Sports Direct’s  share price has fallen by 33% since July (the FTSE100 as a whole has fallen 8%) so it’s hard to argue that the Brand is unaffected.

Also, Mike Ashley has shown that he IS sensitive to criticism. However we interpret last night’s announcement, I would draw attention to his reference to making  fans happy.

So either you believe a sale is imminent and in which case the  protest movement has achieved its goal;  or,  you believe he is lying (again!), in which case it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that the campaigns are having an impact and he is seeking to deflect the fans ahead of the planned boycott and a no doubt troublesome transfer window.

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  • Wor Lass

    Very balanced stuff, David. I agree that protests are worthwhile and that they should continue but I don`t think people should get their hopes up too high about the level of support. Any pressure brought to bear on the Fat Barsteward is helpful as is the publicity it brings but it seems to me that the most succesful action so far has been the disruption to $hite Direct caused by individuals loading up baskets without buying plus small demos that have confronted the fat pig personally and caused him to show his true colours. To me, the Magpie Group need to reassess their strategy because they`re asking people to do things that, in general, they`re not prepared to do. Silent protests before and after a game and during half time, such as people holding up simple anti $hite Direct fliers could be far more effective. Fans unwilling to sacrifice a match or scared of putting the team off may well be very willing to do that sort of thing.

    • JohnnyH

      Or we could just announce that the next protest will consist of all fans going to the game and just sit with faces like balloon knots for 90 mins.
      No probs with full participation there I would say.

  • Realist

    Good article.

    I hopes people are still targeting his online business by filling up a basket.

    it will have an effect. maybe choose anything in all sizes and colours and in varying large quantity. trainers, high end brand and must-go sale items.

    Remember not to log in.

    • Geordie-7676

      I have over 500k worth of stuff in my basket :)

    • Realist

      Another post wrote by Kenny leazes or johnnyh pretending to be me. At least write it in my style/format of you’re trying to pass it off as me. Poor effort this attempt.

      • Realist

        Johnny hope the fanatic

  • Themoscow72

    Do not underestimate the impact of people not turning up on Sunday having on the team. This might be the game that if we lose we get relegated and if we have new owners who will be to blame the protesters. Ashley has had crowds as low as 36,000 in the Championship and 41,000 in the Premiership. Did he sell of course not as there was not a buyer. He will sell when a buyer comes in with a bid of £300m simple as that not because a few hundred miss the game. It’s Rafa and the team which will suffer not Ashley. Anyone not going in on Sunday does not have the team or Rafa at heart. I will be there tonight, there Wednesday and in the ground half two Sunday. That is a supporter.

    • JohnnyH

      That is a deluded fool.

      • FatParosite

        It’s Bishop…. Block it.

    • Geordiegiants

      What planet are you from? Planet ecstasy! Who do you know? Know one, take a trip with me!

    • Toon Arnie

      Do not underestimate the impact of 15,000 people turning their backs on the team and leaving early regardless of the score at the time. I know you support this as long as it’s not protesting against Ashley but i’m simply too loyal to the team to display these behaviours.
      Support the team not Ashley – come on Moscow you can still redeem yourself.

    • KennySamsung

      I actually respect your opinion because if everyone thought the same on here it would be boring… however you should never underestimate the power of one person to change what they think is right, looking back through history even defeat has brought about great change. Influencing the majority is sweet, in the end everyone should keep an open mind and have respect and not do the normal imature shytt, and remember we all have a common goal.

      • panther

        Hopefully our regular defeats will bring about change, Ashley out

    • panther

      We used to shoot people like you

    • Mickey Slater

      an Ashley supporter

  • FatParosite

    ‘All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.’ Is a quote from John Stuart Mill. JFK attributed it to Edmund Burke which was wrong. I don’t think anyone has ever attributed it to Lincoln.