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Tyne Talk

Leeds United shame Mike Ashley with latest ambitious move

11 months ago

Leeds United are just one of the many clubs who are showing the ambition that has been sadly lacking at Newcastle United during Mike Ashley’s 14 years (so far…) of ownership.

The Premier League now inhabited by many club owners who are working feverishly to push forward their clubs as much as possible.

Under ambitious owners we have seen the likes of Aston Villa, Wolves and Leeds United promoted from the Championship since Newcastle United came up in 2017, the trio with big long-term plans that involve major investment, whilst Mike Ashley just wants NUFC to try and crawl by and hope to survive another season. Then repeat the process, hopefully.

One massive area where Mike Ashley has been really shown up for what he is, is when it comes to allowing investment on the infrastructure. That is basically spending on things such as your stadium, training ground, the Academy facilities and so on.

This spending falls outside Financial Fair Play, so ambitious owners will look to give their club the best possible advantages in the future by investing in the training ground and Academy facilities, plus of course the stadium – the bigger and better it is, the more money that can be generated in the years to come.

Sky Sports have now reported (see below) that Leeds United have tweaked their stadium development plans and now Elland Road is set to be turned into a 55,000 capacity ground.

For Newcastle United fans, it was a matter of great pride when St James Park was redeveloped and increased to 52,000+ in time for the 2000/01 season. Only Man Utd having a bigger capacity. Things not always great on the pitch but the support off it, something for NUFC supporters to retain that pride in.

In 2006, a year before Mike Ashley bought Newcastle, Arsenal opened the Emirates and St James Park dropped to third highest capacity in the Premier League.

During the Mike Ashley era that has become (in no particular order) fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh…as West Ham, Man City, Tottenham and Liverpool have all overtaken the St James Park capacity.

Leeds United could / would push Newcastle United down to eight highest, then you have the likes of Wolves and Everton also looking at 50,000+ stadiums. Simply underlining how Mike Ashley has reduced Newcastle United to nothing special in any sense.

When Ashley’s actions brought about his second NUFC relegation, Rafa’s willingness to stay, gave fans some hope, so much so that they filled the stadium week in week out in the Championship, averaging over 51,000 in 2016/17!

That season, only Man Utd were watched by more fans at home games (NUFC having 23 not 19 home matches, so exceeded the likes of Arsenal’s total number of supporters).

Within two years of that astonishing season of Championship crowds, Mike Ashley had forced Rafa Benitez out, employing his latest puppet / patsy, Newcastle fans reacted to Ashley and Bruce by saying enough was enough. So much so that Mike Ashley had to give away 10,000 FREE season tickets, astonishing. Within a few years of Rafa selling out SJP in the second tier, Ashley had reduced NUFC to this.

A recent report from football finance specialist Swiss Ramble, showed this table of investment in the infrastructure by Premier League clubs (capital expenditure) over the last decade:

No surprise to anybody where Mike Ashley and Newcastle United were in the great scheme of things.

Countless PL clubs investing in bigger and better stadiums, whilst Ashley not only had zero interest in following up on the plans drawn up by Hall and Shepherd to expand SJP to 60,000, using land bought across from the Gallowgate specifically for this purpose. Ashley actually sold the land from the club to himself and then sold it on to developers for a personal profit. Not only meaning no increased SJP capacity under his ownership BUT also ensuring no future owners could potentially increase capacity. Remember, Newcastle United had full houses throughout that 2016/17 Championship season.

Leicester recently opened a superb new training ground complex costing almost £100m.

Mike Ashley announced in 2013 that a new NUFC state of the art training complex would be built ASAP, that it was essential if Newcastle United were to compete in the future. Eight years later and not a brick has been laid.

Sky Sports report – 15 June 2021:

Leeds have withdrawn plans to build a £25m training facility close to Elland Road in favour of increasing the stadium’s capacity to 55,000.

The club had received backing from Leeds City Council (LCC) to relocate their Thorp Arch academy to the former Matthew Murray High School site, located close to the M621 just a few hundred metres away from the stadium.

Plans had already been agreed by LCC for Leeds to increase the capacity at Elland Road from 39,000 seats to 50,000.

A report from LCC’s director of city development to the council’s executive board said: “Following the promotion of LUFC to the Premier League and the club securing investment from the San Francisco 49ers’, the club have reviewed their stadium development ambitions and want to preserve their ability to deliver an expanded 55,000-seater stadium at Elland Road, as opposed to a 50,000 seat capacity previously agreed.”


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