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Opinion

Mike Ashley not bothered about 10,000 empty seats – He has got what he wanted

3 weeks ago
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Mike Ashley hasn’t been to a single match at St James Park this season.

Thousands and thousands of Newcastle United fans have done the same.

Three of the six games have had an official announced attendance showing 8,000+ unsold tickets.

However, at least a couple of those, there appeared to be clearly at least 10,000 empty seats or more as many season tickets didn’t bother turning up despite having already paid.

Indeed, the Brighton match saw less than 40,000 inside St James Park, a truly depressing sight as you remember the days when we took selling out as a given.

So is Mike Ashley bothered?

At one point I would have said yes.

I have never thought it was the missing out on extra money that bothered him when seats were left empty, although of course in an ideal world he would prefer the extra cash.

It was more the impact empty seats would have on the wholesale promotion of his retail empire via the St James Park advertising.

Hundreds/thousands of empty seats not exactly enhancing the promotion of Sports Direct and other brands.

However, I now think that this is something Mike Ashley as accepted as collateral damage in achieving something far more important.

The Newcastle United owner succeeding in removing all forms of dissent out of St James Park.

I think it is unfair to call fans ‘Sheep’ who still go to home games but you have to accept that Mike Ashley has pretty much removed the overwhelming majority of what he would see as ‘problem’ fans.

Whilst you wouldn’t say it looks like match attending Newcastle fans are happy with Ashley, you do though have to acknowledge that there are now zero displays of real anger at his disgraceful ownership.

Those people have gone.

No more banners, no more widespread singing/chanting against the NUFC owner, indeed no more flag displays which often showed the contempt for Mike Ashley in a number of clever well-thought out ways.

Season after season more and more fans have said enough is enough due to Mike Ashley and this summer was the final push for many thousands of loyal fans.

I think Ashley actually was keen to encourage this,or why else give out yet another unnecessary increase in season ticket/matchday prices at a time when the vast majority of other clubs are freezing their prices year after year.

Plus, a lot of the empty seats tend to be higher up and missed usually by the TV cameras.

If Mike Ashley stays and crowds continue to fall, I wouldn’t be surprised if he went down the Sunderland/villa route and simply shut parts of St James Park, forcing fans into seats in lower areas to make them look fuller for the cameras, plus of course save a few quid on stewards etc in the closed off areas.

You may say that surely this will never happen but surely with Mike Ashley, we have learnt to understand you can never say never when it comes to how low he will go.

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