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Opinion

‘Mike Ashley has ‘won’ against the Newcastle United fans/boycotters…’

2 months ago
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Recently, I have increasingly heard that Mike Ashley has ‘won’ against the Newcastle fans.

These claims put out by media, as well as some NUFC supporters.

I am led to believe in these recent days and weeks that the club’s owner has ‘won’ this battle of wills against boycotters and the general fanbase.

Before I make my own argument(s), I would say for starters that any football club owner who finds himself (or herself) in some kind of battle/conflict with a significant part of the fanbase, has already lost, no matter what eventually is the outcome.

However, getting back to specifically Mike Ashley and Newcastle fans, what/how exactly has the NUFC won?

The argument I have seen repeatedly put forward, is that now the home NUFC Premier League matches are all ‘sold out’ once again, that ‘proves’ Mike Ashley’s victory. With then the Oxford FA Cup match also sold out, that I’m told was simply further proof that Mike Ashley had succeeded.

It is a funny kind of victory when it is only achieved by having to give away 10,000 free season tickets to fill the empty seats.

So if a pub introduced a new type of beer/lager but no customers found it to their liking and the pub ending up giving it all away for free to get rid of it, the empty beer barrels would be proof of their success? An interesting concept.

It is a bit like Mike Ashley claiming after a Sports Direct (now Frasers Group) shareholders meeting that 70% of votes in his favour proves shareholder support for what he wants to do, ignoring the fact that two thirds of the shares are owned by him.

The great season ticket give away is the exact opposite of a ‘win’ for Mike Ashley.

It is actually the most crushing defeat imaginable. Accepting that the only way he could avoid having so many empty seats next to is retail adverts, Ashley felt forced into giving 25% of the season tickets (with away fan allocation, PL rule saying have to keep at least 2,500 tickets for match by match sales, corporate sections etc – That leaves around just over 40,000 seats available as season tickets) away for free.

It is quite astonishing that pretty much all of the NUFC journalists reported the free season ticket idea as somehow good for the football club. Yes good luck to those who end up getting into matches for nothing but it is a laughably bad business move, making it so much more difficult to sell season tickets in the future after such a desperate move.

Plus, it has actually stopped some fans who wanted to pay to get in match by match for certain games, the chance of watching their team and adding revenue to the club accounts. Also, we are told that only money generated by the club can be spent, so it is a further disaster that Mike Ashley gives all of these tickets away instead of running the club properly/ambitiously, these 10,000 season tickets over a full season would usually generate £6m or so.

It is the daftest argument ever.

Taking it to an extreme, if everybody refused to pay and Mike Ashley was forced to let everybody in for nothing to fill St James Park, would that be the ultimate victory for the owner???

As for the FA Cup game against Oxford, the previous round against Rochdale had seen the lowest ever St James Park FA Cup crowd for a decade.

Also, everybody knows that the majority of those who attend NUFC FA Cup home games are once/twice a season attenders, mainly families, who come for a cheap day out with a clutch of kids.

Similar to Luton two seasons ago, Oxford was a Saturday 3pm family friendly kick-off, a healthy away following (around 4,000 Oxford fans) and cheap as chips prices, Mike Ashley even dropping prices to as low as £1 for kids to sell the last so many thousand seats in the final days before the match.

A bit like the free season ticket give away, the cheap FA Cup prices aren’t Mike Ashley generosity. He knows to get a decent crowd he has to have prices as cheap as possible and with NUFC banking less than half the profit of cash made on ticket sales (shared with other club and FA pot), he is better off attracting legions of kids demanding their parents/keepers buy them thousands of overpriced hotdogs and drinks and hoping to drag them into the club shop.

People only go to Sports Direct because they think it is cheap and now Mike Ashley has gone one step further with Newcastle United, long-term season ticket offers where you commit halfway through each season for next, attracted by knockdown prices, now surpassed by another 10,000 only turning up because it is free.

What next? Give all fans free replica shirts to prove how popular they are?

The reality of course is that when it comes to Newcastle fans, Mike Ashley has well and truly lost.

A bit like replica shirt sales have been for years, sales of match tickets are now on a surefire slide and only Mike Ashley selling the club will reverse that.

Yes there will always be thousands of Newcastle fans at St James Park but the spell has been broken, now we are also guaranteed thousands of empty seats unless countless tickets are given away.

Even that is failing with Mike Ashley because as the cameras panned around the Norwich game on Saturday, there were plenty of empty seats all around St James Park, not massive sections but twos, fours, slightly bigger pockets, maybe a couple of thousand in total.

So even when it is free, Mike Ashley is now struggling to ‘sell’ (fill) out…

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