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Opinion

Mike Ashley has won – Just look at the make up of the Newcastle United crowd now

6 months ago
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Newcastle United might have lost to Everton but was this another victory for Mike Ashley?

You would certainly think so, judging by some of the embarrassing reporting by the media, especially those from the local newspapers.

No proper critique of the move to give away 10,000 free season tickets.

To read what journalists have written, you would think this is one of the most forward thinking moves ever made by a Premier League club.

They even talk of it being generosity on the part of Mike Ashley…

When has Ashley ever done anything, whether it is regarding NUFC or the rest of his life/business empire, that was because he wanted to benefit anybody but himself?

You really do despair of those covering the club, on and especially off the pitch.

Not one of the journalists who call this a good thing, have even considered why not one other club has ever done this, never mind then looking into the reasons why that would be.

Why doesn’t every club when faced with unsold tickets, just give them away?

Well that would be because it is stupid, particularly stupid if you care about St James Park being full in the future. Especially if we are talking about being full of paying customers who really want to be there because they are desperate to come and watch/support and try and help the club they love to be successful.

Mike Ashley’s whole business model has never been about quality.

His message has always been…’Look, me and you know that what I sell isn’t the best but it is cheap and there is even worse quality elsewhere’, which to be fair has worked for him, Sports Direct growing from one shop to be an empire of tat built on the same principle.

Newcastle United fans have never expected the best but they have always expected their club to try and strive for it.

The Kevin Keegan era and to a large extent the Sir Bobby one, showed how powerful the club can be when fans are given something to get behind.

We are now experiencing very much the opposite of that.

Instead of look what we are hoping to achieve come and get behind it, Newcastle fans are just being offered increasingly more desperate deals to put backsides on seats next to Mike Ashley’s adverts.

First we had the long-term fixed price season ticket deal for up to 10 years.

This was sold as something great for the fans but nobody ever really questioned why Mike Ashley was really doing it.

Yes the price stays the same for your season ticket BUT you have to commit to the following season halfway through the current one (by end of January) AND even if you don’t renew your season ticket only once, you lose all the loyalty points (that goes for all season ticket holders) you built up over the years.

You hear fans talking about how they are on the long-term season ticket deal, as though they are tied to it and can’t get out of it. Yes you can but you choose to stay with it, for the cheaper price. Which is fair enough if that is what you want to do and is most important but I packed mine in because I wanted to choose whether or not to renew each summer, not be trapped by Mike Ashley.

The family section up in the gods (Level 7) was championed by Mike Ashley as generously making it affordable for families etc etc. In reality they appear to sell these tickets to anybody and it is simply filling 8,000 of the worst seats in the stadium at a very knockdown price. They are cheap BUT only because Ashley accepted a long time ago that this was the only way he would be sure (or so he thought) to fill them, to watch his unambitious team/club.

Now of course we have the 10,000 free season tickets….the final/ultimate in Mike Ashley accepting that he must give his product away for free. That there is no way Newcastle fans will pay to fill St James Park whilst he is there.

Just giving away around a quarter of the season tickets is a nonsense. No business adviser or marketing expert would tell you to do that, if you have any serious intention of then trying to fill the stadium with paying customers next summer.

This isn’t something that is good for Newcastle United, this is just a good short-term fix for Mike Ashley, saving him embarrassment at all the empty seats and filling them to improve the profile of his retail shop adverts. Offering say free half season tickets as part of a deal where then you also commit to pay for next season starting this summer, is at least some kind of a plan to try and start filling St James Park once again long-term.

Just giving loads of tickets away and then a case of starting again to try and fill it in the summer, is no plan at all.

So look at the make up of the stadium now:

20,000 ‘tied’ to cheap long-term season tickets

8,000 in cheap family section up in the gods

10,000 free season ticket holders

3,200 away fans

4,000 corporates

2.600 tickets available match by match

4,400 others

When was the last time you saw any protest banners against Mike Ashley inside St James Park?

When was the last time you heard any chants against the owner’s disgraceful running of the club inside the stadium?

Well certainly not this season.

Compared to the benefits he gets from promoting his retail empire via NUFC, Mike Ashley is more than happy to see matchday revenue slowly/quickly ebbing away.

Plus of course, ironically he has been putting ticket prices up each season, so those on the cheap deals are made to feel they are getting an even better deal…even though the product is rubbish.

Mike Ashley has succeeded it seems in removing all protest from St James Park and at the same time removed pretty much all atmosphere

It was marginally better on Saturday with 10,000 less empty seats but in reality the atmosphere was still rubbish. Removing thousands and thousands of the most passionate fans over a period of years and replacing them with people who are only there because it is free or cheap, or because they are worried about losing their loyalty points/fixed price, will tend to have that kind of effect.

It doesn’t mean that there are no passionate/committed Newcastle fans inside St James Park, it is just that the more and more you dilute it with so many people there who can take it or leave it, quite like NUFC, something to do, it’s cheap – bit like a Group On deal, now free…

Just watch in the summer when Ashley’s poodle Lee Charnley is telling you not to expect ambitious signings, because after all, if you are paying a bargain price, what do you expect to get for your money?

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