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Law of unintended consequences kicks in as Mike Ashley gives away 10,000 free NUFC season tickets

1 year ago

Mike Ashley is at it again.

The Newcastle United owner coming up with a cunning plan.

How to fill ten thousand empty seats?

Simple, give ten thousand free season tickets away.

Isn’t it amazing that no other Premier League club has ever before thought of this ingenious plan…

Mike Ashley has ‘succeeded’ in driving thousands and thousands of Newcastle fans away during his 13 seasons at the club and this summer was the final tipping point for so many.

It wasn’t so much that Rafa Benitez was forced out, it was more that all real hope went with him.

Hope of building a long-term future with investment and a plan in place to properly get the Academy working as it should be, the ‘essential’ training complex promised in 2013, maybe even a strategy for expanding St James Park in the longer-term, a proper long-term plan on developing and investing in the squad with signings chosen by a top class professional such as Rafa Benitez, or an alternative high level replacement given the freedom to choose the signings that were needed.

Instead Mike Ashley has taken back full control and insisted on the £40m signing of Joelinton.

As so often has happened in the past though, Ashley has got lucky so far on the pitch, largely poor negative performances have somehow turned into 22 points thanks to the efforts of a committed team who are certainly playing for Steve Bruce and the fans.

However, that hasn’t scratched the surface of the underlying concerns/issues, disillusioned fans far from convinced, with indeed a lowest ever league crowd in over nine years on Sunday, over 10,000 empty seats sitting in front of Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct adverts, as well as all the other MA brands that disfigure St James Park.

So Monday night brings the ‘solution’, Mike Ashley announcing that he is giving away 10,000 free season tickets in the hope of filling those empty seats that are devaluing the advertising of his retail empire. Not a great look as the TV cameras beam pictures to the UK public and worldwide of failure in the stands, of Mike Ashley driving so many Newcastle fans away.

Everything at Newcastle United is always short-term for Mike Ashley, which is at the heart of why Rafa left and so many more Newcastle fans said enough is enough this summer.

This give away of season tickets is pure Ashley.

I find it very difficult to believe that this free ticket decision is not linked to Mike Ashley’s wider business empire.

On Monday there is a shareholder vote at Sports Direct. Mike Ashley owns two thirds of the company so no very difficult to wonder who will be on the winning side.

The vote is to rid the company of the toxic Sports Direct branding, a name that has come to stand for everything that is wrong in how big companies operate these days.

Mike Ashley had proposed that the company will in future be known instead as ‘Fraser Group’, with immediate effect on 16 December ‘if’ Ashley wins the vote.

The free season tickets are for the final 10 home matches starting off with Everton on 28 December.

It may happen in time for Crystal Palace but I would bet my bottom dollar that by the time Everton comes around (or 100% by the time the live TV match against Leicester on 1 January), St James Park will have seen a dramatic transformation, where now you see 10,000 empty seats in front of the Sports Direct branding all around SJP, instead it will be loads of bums (no disrespect…) in front of shiny new Fraser Group adverts.

Nothing is ever a coincidence with Mike Ashley involved.

However, his short-termism will most definitely lead to yet more longer-term problems for the football club.

The law of unintended consequences will really hit home.

Back in the day Sunderland built too big a ground and could never fill the 49,000 capacity Stadium of Light, the club began giving out loads of discounted tickets and even free ones on occasion.

I know Sunderland fans who in the end gave up season tickets because they knew they could always get cheaper tickets through local schools and other local organisations, where the Mackems were pushing the discounted tickets.

When we get to summer 2020, do you think selling NUFC season tickets will be easier or harder than it was this summer gone?

This is a very slippery slope and not the way you should run any football club.

Keep putting season ticket prices up and up (some fans are paying over 25% more than two seasons ago) and now give 10,000 season tickets away?

It is pure nonsense.

I can’t believe some media and fans are pushing this as a generous gesture from Mike Ashley. It is beyond belief.

One other unintended consequence is if we fast forward to 17 May 2020.

Look at the mayhem when Liverpool visited last season with their fans all over the ground as they thought they could win the league for the first time in decades.

Just how many of these 10,000 free season ticket holders will be happy to sell their ticket on? Liverpool are hot favourites and that last day of the season looks all but sure to be massive for them, I dread to think of how many away fans will be in the home areas that day.

The Mike Ashley circus rolls on and the club lurches from one daft decision to the next.


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