Fit and proper owner? Why haven’t the Premier League challenged Mike Ashley on these 10 issues?
What is a fit and proper owner…why don’t the Premier League go and ask Mike Ashley?
For 13 years he has ran Newcastle United into the ground.
Running the club with zero ambition, misleading managers (Rafa getting ‘every penny’), not spending a penny on the infrastructure (SJP, training ground, academy) he doesn’t have to, treated club legends disgracefully, treated fans with contempt.
So when it comes to ‘fit and proper owner’, why haven’t the Premier League challenged Mike Ashley on these 10 issues?
Discriminating against cancer victim Jonas Gutierrez
Mike Ashley was found to have discriminated against Jonas Gutierrez because of his cancer diagnosis.
The tribunal ordering the NUFC owner to pay compensation to the player because they found that Ashley via his ‘board’ had ordered John Carver not to play Guttierez, so that he wouldn’t play in enough games that would trigger a new contract for the cancer victim.
Jonas’ legal team commenting after the tribunal found in Jonas’ favour:
“As he alleged, it has been determined by the tribunal that the Newcastle United Board influenced team selection to prevent Jonas reaching the contractual trigger point to secure an extension to his contract.
“He wishes to place on record his thanks to all the Newcastle fans who have supported him throughout his case.”
Kevin Keegan successfully sues for constructive dismissal
Kevin Keegan was told categorically by Mike Ashley and his people that he (KK) would have the final say on transfers in and out.
However, after being forced out, Keegan successfully took legal action and proved that he had been lied to, with Mike Ashley having secretly given the authority on transfers instead to Dennis Wise and / or other unnamed people.
Mike Ashley forced to pay £2m compensation to Kevin Keegan.
Newcastle United Fans Forum
Premier League rules say all clubs have to engage in a fit and proper way with their fans.
To tick this box, Newcastle United committed to holding Fans Forum meetings four times a year.
In the 29 months up to November 2019 the club only held two fans forum meetings and then announced they were scrapping them to have ‘Fan Focus Groups’ with supporters, essentially, random occasional meetings with smaller groups of fans to talk about specific issues and limit even further the chance for fans to ask the questions they really wanted answered.
The Newcastle United board
Newcastle United are the only Premier League club to operate without a board of directors.
Instead, as a legal requirement Mike Ashley has only one named director, Lee Charnley.
Who runs Newcastle United?
As well as being the only named director, Lee Charnley is the only named executive (allegedly) running the club.
As has been widely reported over a period of years, Mike Ashley instead relies on people without official titles / positions to run the club on his behalf, people from his Sports Direct inner circle.
Justin Barnes the main SD person Ashley relies on, though Keith Bishop has also been a regular figure involved at the club on behalf of Ashley.
Shamefully, Mike Ashley used and abused the government’s scheme to pay most of his non-playing staff over the course of recent months.
Norwich who were all but already relegated and without a billionaire owner, the only other PL club to do so.
Taking full season ticket payments by direct debit in March 2020 for the 2020/21 season
Despite being urged by Newcastle fan groups not to do so, just as the virus situation was severely impacting on so many people, especially financially.
Mike Ashley insisted on going ahead with taking advance full season ticket payments by direct debit from many fans, this despite at the time nobody knowing when that 2020/21 season would start and when fans might be allowed back into stadiums (which we still don’t know five months later).
Ashley also insisted on taking advance monthly season ticket payments from March onwards for 2020/21, despite other decent PL club owners giving fans payment holidays for a period of time, at least until the situation was clearer.
Delaying refunds until the very last possible moment
Newcastle United were the very last of the 20 Premier League clubs to confirm they would be refunding fans for single match tickets / packages and part-season tickets for the five games of the 2019/20 season that couldn’t be used.
Mike Ashley refusing to allow any communication with fans before that very belated announcement after all other 19 PL clubs had acted.
Refusing to communicate
In August 2019, Lee Charnley ahead of the first game (Arsenal home), promised that NUFC had recognised their failings in properly communicating with supporters and he said that was all going to now change. Promising that this 2019/20 season would see a big change and supporters now treated in a fit and proper way, with regular communication from those at the club.
We are still waiting.
Mike Ashley is the only Premier League club owner who for a decade has used his club’s stadium (and training ground, official club website, all signings, press conferences) to give completely free advertising to his other business interests.
That has now changed to Sports Direct paying a pittance for this worldwide promotion of Ashley’s retail empire.
A total lack of transparency as to how the club shop (online and physical – Mike Ashley has closed all but the shop at SJP so they don’t compete with his Sports Direct stores) relationship works with Sports Direct and how much, if anything, NUFC profits from club shop sales.
***I know that there are countless other issues that I could have included, indeed many that are even more compelling (worse) than the 10 I have quickly picked out above. Feel free to remind me below of the glaring omissions that I have missed…
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