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Opinion

Mike Ashley is the enemy and not other Newcastle United fans

5 months ago
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Newcastle United are never going to win the European Cup or the Premier League in my lifetime.

A pretty obvious statement isn’t it?

Why would NUFC even be close to winning either of those trophies?

However, I am only 24, and it suddenly hit me the other day that I won’t ever see my team win those trophies. Ever.

No matter what way you look at it, attendances and noise at SJP is getting lower, and interest from the fan-base is probably at an all-time low, at least in the Premier League era. For some it may not be an issue – especially those of you still going to the games – but you should be worried, even the happy clappers, we should all be very worried.

I sat down in my apartment this weekend to watch football for the first time in 2020. Here in Singapore, we get every Premier League game live on TV, but I often find myself preferring to watch the Bundesliga or Eredivisie. What followed next between Hoffenheim and Bayern Munich (as well as Union Berlin vs Wolfsburg the following day) should not be overlooked, as it has wider repercussions for football in general and should be seen as a metaphor for what is happening at Newcastle United.

At first glance, and if you read a few news reports from the usual outlets, it might seem like Bayern’s fans crossed a line with their banner (‘Dietmar Hopp remains a son of a w.ore’) aimed at Hoffenheim’s owner at the weekend. Yet when you consider that their fans are now being vilified by not only the media, owners, their players and even other areas of their own support… it begs the question why? Especially given the fact that Bayern’s fans are one of the most outspoken in Europe when it comes to fighting the cause against sexism, racism, anti-semitism, homophobia etc.

It is scary for the future of football. We are seeing it everywhere, good people, with good causes, being vilified for the good causes they have always fought to defend. You see it in the rest of the world: Bernie Sanders vilified for supporting dictators, Jeremy Corbyn for being a terrorist supporter… and last week The Magpie Group were said to be ‘against their own fans’. It is f.cking mental man!

Just like in the rest of Europe (including the UK, where unwanted minorities are being attacked by the powers that be), football fans are being attacked left, right and centre. It has been suggested across various media outlets that Bayern will attempt to strip fans of their season tickets, and club memberships – effectively attacking the very fan culture that built Bayern and German football into what it is today. The same has been done at Newcastle United by Mike Ashley (and Manchester United too, might I add).

If fan groups lose to billionaire owners, whether it be at Newcastle United or Bayern Munich, then what happens from here? It is a precedent too scary to imagine for the future of what used to be ‘the working classes game’.

Forget about the actual football for one second and picture the whole infrastructure and industry that surrounds it. We are pumped with so much useless information from news/private interests 24/7 that we have been numbed into hearing anything. We simply don’t want to hear anymore… we just want to go and watch the football… and in turn, continue to feed the system. Every comment by Pep Guardiola surrounding transfers, or team selection, is described as major news – far more important than a footballer being racially abused, or the issues facing football fans in 2020.

This morning, BBC News is filled with article after article of football fans in Germany holding banners against owners – portraying fan solidarity in a negative light. Yet did they comment a few weeks ago, or provide article after article when football fans in Germany chanted “Nazis Out” after a fan made monkey noises towards a player in a third-tier game in Germany? Or when Mario Balotelli was racially abused against Lazio in January? Or when Porto’s Moussa Marega tried to walk off the pitch in Portugal 2 weeks ago?

Did they f.ck.

Football club owners, the rich men, the Mike Ashleys of this world are currently winning. Even at Newcastle United, and I mean this in the most respectful way possible – the fans who care about the future of the football club are being pushed out. The ones who really want to make something good happen, pro-active, positive change, are looked at with distaste by others (including the media).

Meanwhile, they are being replaced by those in NUFC’s end at away games with those who rather than protest against Mike Ashley, and the running of Newcastle United (and football in general), prefer to sing different songs. Chants about Adam Johnson and underage girls, Jimmy Saville and how everyone from Sunderland is a criminal, when in actual fact, when it comes to football, and the future of football for fans, we should be one in arms with our neighbours.

It is yet another example of the working class fighting against the working class while the rich businessmen owners sit there with their arms crossed laughing at us… that is literally in the case of Mike Ashley! It is so important and yet so many seem to have forgotten, or simply do not seem to care.

Newcastle United are being left behind… but are they being left behind by a sport, a league, and a culture that is changing for the better? I am not so sure.

Our first port of call should be the government who need to act, perhaps now before it is too late. Will they, won’t they? This is a government led by a man with a career of sexist, racist and homophobic remarks, not to mention his distaste for what he once described as the ‘drunk, criminal, aimless, feckless, hopeless and low self-esteem blue collar working class’… so maybe we shouldn’t have any hopes of Boris and his pals backing the little guys over the big billionaires any time soon.

How short are our memories? Have we all just forgotten about Bolton and Bury… who have not been mentioned by anybody in the public spotlight for a good while now. This is another point – that Mike Ashley and Keith Bishop know too well – in football – bad publicity only lasts so long, eventually the punters will get bored, forget about how they are being screwed over, go back to feeding the system that is built against them.

Moreover, what the billionaire owners have become masters at, and again Mike Ashley is the expert, is that they make football just about bearable. They edge on that limit where for the majority, they make it just about bearable enough for them to go – and want to take their mates and kids along with them too.

Let’s say, if fans don’t turn up, does it even matter? Of course! If you are suggesting that ‘boycotts’ or empty seats do not impact on Mike Ashley’s ability to own Newcastle United, then tell me an alternative reason as to why the club handed out 10,000 free season tickets with no strings attached. If anyone suggests that it is because they care about the atmosphere inside the ground, then well, have a word.

It is no secret that Newcastle no longer interest a section of our support in the same way as even just a few seasons ago, never mind 20 years ago. Perhaps that’s understandable but a worrying sight. Nonetheless, they are easily replaced by those happy to accept the status quo. Again, ticket prices compared to quality of football on show may be a factor for some but there are always fans willing to replace those that don’t go and keep the system going.

I think that one thing that makes the situation so complicated for Newcastle fans, compared to maybe 20-30 years ago, is that the fan base now is so big and so diverse that each fan is truly different. Ideas and opinions put forward by NUFC fans in London, may not resonate in the same way to those in Newcastle, or Durham, or abroad.

However, if you are an NUFC fan with more negative words to say about the fellas at NUST or The Magpie Group who are out there in the cold every Saturday helping the foodbank, cutting their 9-5 jobs short for group meetings, using their own money for banners/flags, or trying to do something to make Newcastle United a better, greater football club… than you do for Mike Ashley, then I think you should take a good look at yourself. If fan groups (and I mean real ones, not twitter pages) lose the fight to the billionaire owners, whether it be in England, or Germany, then what is to come over the next decade is scary to think about.

Yes, I understand, that football is nothing but a social ritual – but there are a lot of rich men out there who are determined to take advantage of that. Why can’t we stand up to them? Really. There is far more to unite us than to divide us.

Of all the banners German football has given us, let me remind you of one more “Created by the poor, stolen by the rich”.

You can follow the author on Twitter @JonathanComyn

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