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Opinion

Newcastle United now perfectly readied to be sold by Mike Ashley

3 months ago
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Just over three months ago I outlined the case as to why Newcastle United could finally be sold.

It was late May 2019 and by sheer coincidence only a few days later the story broke as to how a rich Sheikh was set to buy the club imminently.

The news (and the timing of it with my article) seemed almost too good to be true…and it was.

The potential buyers insisted they were serious and instead of dismissing the possibility, instead it was ‘no comment’ time after time from Mike Ashley and the club.

Belatedly, Mike Ashley did confirm the BZG approach to buy the club in his infamous PR statement in The Mail on 26 July 2019:

‘The last bid, the one from UAE, he’s a prince and he’s got £38bn or £100bn, all these numbers — well, why would you even care what you’re paying then?

“What difference would £10m either way make?

“You would want speed, you would want certainty, you would want the keys and to get on with it.

‘I will not stand in the way of Newcastle United. I will not stop that, if it happens.”

With everything else Mike Ashley said, especially about Rafa Benitez, the selling the club bit got a bit lost. The reference to ‘What difference would £10m either way make’, the usual Ashley bluster but to me it definitely suggested that talks had got a lot further than ever before and it sounded very much as though the NUFC owner had been pushing for ever more money, that leading to it falling down possibly.

What didn’t change  for me though was a feeling that finally Mike Ashley had seriously considered selling because of what had happened behind the scenes at the club, clear signs it had been readied for a sale. Only for Ashley at least for the time being, asking for too much money.

The situation that existed in the summer (my perception of the club having many factors making it look an attractive proposition for a buyer) has only got better for me, apart from the managerial situation. Although it is far easier to find a new decent manager for NUFC than it is to buy the club off Ashley…

Here are a few reasons why I think Newcastle United is perfectly readied to be sold:

The Championship season (2016/17) accounts were made to look as bad as possible with future wages for unwanted players included, which meant that when the latest (2017/18) accounts were made public in April 2019, the NUFC wage bill actually falling despite now being in the Premier League, something unheard of! The net result is that the club’s wage bill on these latest accounts is only 52% of the turnover, something that will look very very attractive to a potential buyer.

This summer’s trading has at worst made the wages situation about the same, or even potentially improved it for a buyer.

Five players arrived but only three of them (Joelinton, Allan Saint-Maximin and Krafth) are contracted beyond next June, Carroll and Willems only contracted for one year as it stands.

When you consider as well that Rondon, Barreca, Kenedy, Perez, Diame and Joselu have all been taken off the wage bill, difficult to imagine it is now any higher than last season.

Another important factor for a buyer would be the length of contracts still outstanding, having a host of high paid but unwanted players stuck at the club would be seen as a massive liability. However, Newcastle United are exactly the opposite, with almost the entire squad having only less than two years left on their current deals.

Contracts running out in;

June 2020:

Ki, Carroll, Willems, Fernandez, Manquillo, Elliot, Darlow, Colback, Sterry

June 2021:

Atsu, Lazaar, Saivet, Aarons, Yedlin, Woodman, Hayden, Gayle, Ritchie, Shelvey, Schar, Clark, Murphy

June 2022:

Longstaff, Lejeune, Muto, Dummett, Dubravka

June 2023:

Krafth

June 2024:

Almiron, Lascelles

June 2025:

Joelinton, ASM

The 10 players who are contracted beyond June 2021 are all, apart from Muto, first choice players.

So in other words the clubs assets, not liabilities, are generally the ones tied down to longer contracts. You would then add probably only Woodman, Schar, Ritchie and Hayden, all four having just under two years to go.

Two other factors also are now very much in the frame when it comes to making the club attractive to a  buyer.

The kit deal with Puma comes to an end next summer and so any new owner would see an injection of cash when choosing which company to partner with.

Also, maybe more importantly, the shirt sponsor deal with FUN88 also ends next summer, so another injection of cash via that deal. Even better, if we still daydream of a Sheikh or similar taking over, the fact that the shirt sponsor package would be available, could even see a far higher injection of money as we have seen at certain other clubs, such as Man City.Obviously not as high as theirs but it is a way for a new owner to get more money into a club if they have a close potential sponsor in mind willing to pay over the odds, a way to bend FFP rules, to allow a higher level of spending on players by a new owner.

I have no inside info on whether Mike Ashley will sell or indeed is willing to sell but I do know the club will one day be sold.

The club does feel even more than ever that it is just ticking over and these conditions above do point to factors that would encourage a sale.

We are now also moving into the time of year when a potential sale of Newcastle United often becomes headlines, one day it will reach the endgame and I have everything crossed that out of the blue something will happen this time.

The 8,000 or so empty seats at each of the two home Premier League games and also a far lower attendance for the League Cup v Leicester, won’t have done any harm. Mike Ashley hopefully now accepting that the game is up, that seeing out a 13th season at NUFC won’t be a lucky one for him.

Of course the usual perils of possible relegation exist as ever under Mike Ashley but that will always be, whether a sale could go through mid-season would almost certainly depend on Newcastle’s position not looking disastrous but at the very least a potential sale could happen next summer, IF Ashley is willing.

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