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Opinion

Persuading Mike Ashley he has to sell Newcastle United when he’s £900m better off than 5 months ago

11 months ago
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Mike Ashley bought Newcastle United in 2007.

We know why he bought the football club.

Following the sale of the club and pocketing his millions, Sir John Hall revealed that when completing the deal Ashley’s takeover team had stated why the retailer was buying NUFC.

They told Hall that the reason for buying Newcastle United was so that Mike Ashley could advertise and expand his retail empire in both the UK and overseas.

That the worldwide reach of the Premier League TV deals both UK and overseas rights, would be perfect to make him even more rich and powerful.

Also a key part of the deal was the Newcastle United fanbase, as advertising/promotion of a brand is only totally successful if promoting the right image, which in this case means a full stadium alongside the adverts.

No point in buying a club such as Sunderland with thousands of empty seats every match, or the likes of Aston Villa with their fickle fanbase, were their crowds can go up and down significantly depending on results.

A successful Newcastle United for Mike Ashley is one where it survives in the Premier League without any investment from the owner, with capacity attendances. Not essential that the club is successful on the pitch, just so that it exists in the top tier so the Sports Direct and related brands are beamed around the world on matchdays, as well as the other coverage at the training ground and at the club generally (website, social media, SJP) which are all heavily SD branded and get Premier League level attention between matches.

Success in terms of getting high enough  in the Premier League to get into Europe is especially frowned upon because for European games UEFA take over your stadium in terms of the advertising, so no free coverage of Ashley’s retail empire.

The whole business model for Newcastle United under Mike Ashley is simply for the club to not cost him any money and give maximum exposure to his other businesses, plus the more remote bonus of the club appreciating in value and sometime in the very distant future he might decide to sell NUFC.

Newcastle fans have been left in a desperate position, a football club with no intention of trying to succeed on the pitch and an owner with no intention of selling because of the part NUFC plays in making the rest of his business empire more successful.

Mike Ashley has now on a yearly basis pretended that he is trying and indeed wants to sell Newcastle United.

The reality is that he has no intention, after all, why would he? The club makes him a richer and richer man due to the part it plays in the jigsaw of his overall business strategy.

By pretending to sell each year, Ashley gets the added bonus of masses of more free advertising for his retail empire, just think of the millions of extra mentions of SD in the media each year, due to these fabricated attempts to supposedly try and sell the club.

It is now 12 years he has allegedly been trying to sell Newcastle United and the media still print the stories as though there is any truth in them. The vast majority of other major clubs have all changed hands at least once in this 12 year period and yet so many journalists justify why Mike Ashley hasn’t managed to. Reporting that he genuinely does want to sell but just can’t find a genuine buyer. They are bigger mugs than the SD ones that Ashley sells in his jumble sale shops.

Over 5,000 Newcastle fans packed in their season tickets in the summer due to Mike Ashley refusing to sell up and a similar number of match by match fans have been staying away from many of the games as well this season. Official attendances down to as low as 42,000 and indeed the numbers actually turning up to games even falling below the 40,000 mark.

To protect the St James Park value to his retail empire, Mike Ashley’s response has been to simply give 10,000 free season tickets away. He doesn’t care that this will actually stop supporters in many instances from being able to buy tickets for certain games, or indeed the surefire future problems it will cause in terms of selling tickets and filling St James Park. He only cares about getting backsides on seats no matter how it happens and help increase the power of his advertising inside SJP.

So how do we force Mike Ashley to sell Newcastle United?

Very difficult I’m afraid to say, consider this…

On 14 August 2019, the Sports Direct Group shares were trading at 214p.

This made the company total shareholding worth just over £1bn and Ashley’s shareholding within that, over £600m.

However, on 9 January 2020, less than five months later, the Frasers Group (rebranded from SD Group) shares are today trading at 477p.

The total shareholding now valued at around £2.5bn, Ashley’s shares worth over £1.5bn, the paper value of his SD (Frasers Group) shareholding rising by around £900m in less than five months.

Do any of you honestly believe that Mike Ashley is trying to sell Newcastle United. A football club that costs him nothing and indeed profits him in various other ways as well (selling club land for development, the retail arrangement etc etc) and provides massive free promotion of his retail empire.

I think relegation and staying down is the only guaranteed way for Mike Ashley to sell up, with the club costing him money.

However, the Newcastle fans boycotting HAS 100% had an impact, it has hurt him. To give away 10,000 free season tickets is embarrassing and extreme, so so desperate. Quite unbelievable that the media by and large are refusing to call it out as such, some of them even  describing it as generous by Mike Ashley (Please insert countless crying with laughter emojis!!!).

Tough decisions for many of those on the long-term price deals who have been successfully bought off by Mike Ashley so far, they need to make the decision on whether to renew and guarantee Ashley more money (and their backside filling a seat next to his adverts) for next season, by the end of this month.

Then in the summer the same dilemma for so many other Newcastle fans.

An empty St James Park would get rid of Mike Ashley as well, in my opinion, but very hard/impossible to achieve.

Modern English football in the Premier League is massively built on season tickets, not like back in the day on the terraces when attendances could fluctuate wildly, based on success or failure, especially towards the end of a season with meaningless matches, or indeed a fanbase wanting to protest by staying away…

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