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Opinion

The biggest worry about Mike Ashley sale of Gallowgate land not previously talked about

3 weeks ago
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The Mike Ashley sale of land opposite the Gallowgate End has made plenty of headlines.

Just in case you have somehow missed it, the basic facts are…

Back in 1998 when John Hall and Freddy Shepherd were running Newcastle United, they acquired a 125 year lease on the land in 1998.

The land was bought with the intention of at a future date it would be used to help increase the capacity of St James Park.

Plans were drawn up by the then owners, which included building a hotel, a conference centre and luxury apartments, as well as increasing the St James Park capacity to 60,000.

The purchase of the land was also adding a valuable asset to the club, making it more attractive to potential buyers, with the potential then for new owners to increase the value of their new asset (the football club) by developing the land, if they bought Newcastle United.

Mike Ashley came along in 2007 and along with other plots of land and other assets, the land opposite the Gallowgate was part of the Newcastle United purchase.

In the 12+ years he has owned NUFC, Mike Ashley hasn’t spent a penny on the club infrastructure that wasn’t essential in terms of maintenance etc, whether it is the Academy, the first team training complex, or St James Park.

So not the greatest surprise that Ashley then bought the land from the football club into his own personal ownership and then sold it to developers at a profit, so that the cash went to him directly and not into club funds.

Despite opposition from Newcastle fans, the council approved plans for the land to be developed for hotels and student accommodation amongst other things, with then new plans put forward on more or less similar lines but for a larger development.

These plans were given the ok by Newcastle City Council this month, despite over 1,700 objections.

Those objections mainly to do with the fact that it ends any realistic chances of substantially increasing the St James Park capacity in the future and ruins the city centre skyline and views of the iconic stadium.

However, I think maybe what should be the biggest talking point, has been totally missed. Up to now that is.

What does this move tell us about Mike Ashley and his plans for the future?

Well from where I’m sitting, it doesn’t look great.

The media want us to believe that Mike Ashley is telling the truth now, that he genuinely wants to sell Newcastle United and move on.

If that is/was the case, then the sale of the land makes absolutely zero sense.

Ashley has made a few million quid personal profit from the asset stripping.

However, that is a pittance compared to the £300m-£350m that it is claimed he would happily sell the club for.

Liverpool and Tottenham, along with others, have spent fortunes buying up land around their stadiums to help grow their clubs.

If Mike Ashley was indeed serious about trying to sell Newcastle United, why on earth would you be selling this prime city centre land adjacent to St James Park?

It makes absolutely no sense because with the land opposite the Gallowgate included, it make NUFC a far more attractive buy. Land that they could then do whatever they wanted with, whether it was expanding SJP, other NUFC related developments, or indeed the kind of development that has now been given the go ahead.

Sadly, this move just makes me think that like these past 11 years since he first promised he was selling the football club, Mike Ashley is having us on.

Newcastle United is such a key part of his overall empire, he is yet again just pretending he has any intention of selling.

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