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Opinion

I have never felt more ashamed to be a Newcastle United fan than I am after latest Mike Ashley move

6 months ago
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Mike Ashley has managed the impossible.

I didn’t think it was possible to feel more ashamed to be a Newcastle United fan but Monday has brought an unprecedented low.

Supporting this football club for decades, I have become well used to embarrassing scenes on the actual football pitch.

However, to see what has been done by Mike Ashley off the pitch isn’t just embarrassing, it is scandalous.

Last week Mike Ashley, despite pleas from supporters groups and many individual fans, went ahead and took full advance payment for 2020/21 season tickets by direct debit from countless Newcastle fans. With such desperate financial times for so many supporters, Mike Ashley refused to delay payments until we at least have some idea of when next season might start. Full payment taken for a season that could be six, seven, eight, who knows how many months away.

Whilst other clubs are offering three month payment holidays for monthly payments on 2020/21 season tickets, Mike Ashley has also refused to do anything for Newcastle fans, direct debits will come out without delay each month.

Unlike other clubs who had promised to pay casual matchday workers for the rest of the season despite no games taking place, Mike Ashley refused to do so.

Also, whilst other clubs had made public commitments to paying their full-time staff as normal, Mike Ashley didn’t, now we know why.

Today (Monday 30 March) the Chronicle report:

‘Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley has taken the decision to place the majority of his work force on furlough leave.

Staff are believed to have been informed via an email from Lee Charnley on Monday morning as the UK got ready for week two of lockdown caused by the virus pandemic.

Staff were pointed in the direction of the governments Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which gives workers 80% of their wages back up to a maximum of £2,500 per month.

It is understood that drastic move by Ashley includes a number of Academy staff and members of the club’s scouting department as well as the club’s Foundation charity. The move does not include players and first team coaches.

Newcastle chiefs are understood to have told staff that the decision was to safeguard the club’s future.’

So Mike Ashley insists on taking full season ticket money from Newcastle fans for a season that nobody has a clue when it will start, yet refuses to now take responsibility for paying many/most of the lowest paid NUFC staff because it is supposedly essential to ‘safeguard the club’s future’…

Not a single other Premier League club has done this, at least not so far.

You would/could quite possibly say that what Mike Ashley has done this with indecent haste.

A billionaire who owns a football club that in the end didn’t spend around £28m of the transfer funds Lee Charnley said were available for this current season, yet instantly pulls the plug for paying normal staff’s wages, leaving them relying on the government to pay up to 80% of their usual pay.

Imagine if you are a club employee who has just been furloughed and you were also one of those who had your full season ticket money (or other members of you family did) taken last week.

So how do decent clubs act…?

Brighton and Hove Albion official statement – 13 March 2020:

Brighton & Hove Albion have committed to pay staff who are unable to work due to the coronavirus, including more than six hundred regular casual staff who work for the club on matchdays.

In a show of loyalty to the club’s workforce, chief executive and deputy chairman Paul Barber agreed the measure with the club’s board of directors during an emergency conference call this afternoon, set up following the Premier League meeting earlier today when it was decided to postpone fixtures until 4th April.

Barber explained, “We have more than six hundred matchday staff, who regularly work for us at the stadium on matchdays like tomorrow would have been.

“We have had to cancel their work at really short notice, and we know that their work and pay is really important.

“We have taken the decision as a club to continue paying the vast majority of our matchday staff for the remainder of the season, whether or not we play the five remaining Premier League games.

“We feel that is really important, whether we play the games in a full stadium, behind closed doors or at all. We want those staff to know they’ve got their pay coming to them.

“That is a small thing we can do. The vast majority of people we employ are local people so it is important we support them, and through them our local economy, at a difficult time and hopefully give them some reassurance, regardless of what else happens, that they still have that income from us to come.”

Albion are also telling full-time staff to work from home where possible from Monday, and to minimise risk in whatever ways possible.

Brighton CEO Paul Barber update – 25 March 2020:

‘Our club is all about aiming high, exceeding expectations, and treating people well. We know how to do this. And we’re good at it. So, let’s keep doing it throughout this period, however tough it may get.

Let’s also remember we have a strong club with a totally engaged and committed owner, experienced directors, a talented executive team, and hardworking staff. We’re in a good place at a bad time.

In crises, communities look for calm leadership and signs of hope. We can use our club’s influence to support both neighbours and strangers where we can, and we can use kindness to inspire.

We have sent the majority of our core staff a £50 Amazon voucher, but not including our various department heads or senior management staff, with the message to use it to boost their family’s morale with something practical for their home: some food or drink; some games for the kids; some extra communications technology; or, perhaps, if they’re lucky, a toilet roll!

Do please keep following the Government’s and NHS England’s latest advice. Keep well!’

Paul Barber says that Brighton’s club ethos is ‘all about aiming high, exceeding expectations, and treating people well’, well we certainly know what the Newcastle United club ethos is under Mike Ashley and willing minions such as Lee Charnley. Aim as low as possible and treat both fans and staff as badly as possible.

Can Mike Ashley really be allowed to carry on owning Newcastle United once we come out the other end of this virus crisis?

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