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Tyne Talk

Newcastle United Statement on transfer business – Taken apart line by line

1 week ago
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Mike Ashley released his statement on Friday, a quite extraordinary attempt at justifying the lack of spending in this 2021 summer transfer window by Newcastle United.

Below, I have gone through the entire statement line by line, paragraph by paragraph, to try and give some proper meaning / counter explanation as to what is being said by Mike Ashley.

Before getting stuck into it, a few things.

No normal Premier League club ever does anything like this.

The very fact that Mike Ashley has felt the need to put this nonsense out in public, is to me an admission in itself that Newcastle United has been a joke this summer.

Maybe the biggest irony / joke of all, is that whilst Mike Ashley went all guns blazing in accusing the Premier League and others of a lack of transparency when it comes to Newcastle United takeover issues, he has refused to put his name to this statement, nor indeed even attaching one of his minions’ names to it.

As for Mike Ashley or Justin Barnes, or even Lee Charnley, making themselves available to answer questions on exactly what is being claimed in this statement, as it does indeed raise more questions than it gives answers, well, forget it.

Transparency is always a one way street where Mike Ashley is concerned.

Here we go then, that Mike Ashley statement released via Newcastle United (extracts from the statement in bold, my comments then underneath):

Newcastle United would like to provide supporters with an update in relation to the approach taken to the summer 2021 transfer window. Our commitment to being run in a sustainable manner, which secures the financial viability of the club, is a longstanding one.

The idea that Mike Ashley’s way of running a Premier League club ‘secures the financial viability’ is a complete joke, it is actually the exact opposite. In 115 years Newcastle had been relegated four times, in only 14 years of Mike Ashley there have already been two. As things stand, Newcastle are averaging a relegation every six Mike Ashley Premier League seasons, relegation by a million miles the biggest threat to any PL club’s financial viability. Only the brilliance of Chris Hughton and Rafa Benitez, as well as the loyalty and cash of the fans, ensured instant promotions and avoidance of massive financial problems.

This does not come at the expense of being ambitious….

In exactly what way can Mike Ashley show that the way he runs Newcastle United encourages or even allows ambition?

One top nine finish in the Premier League in 14 years of Ashley, not a single cup semi-final never mind a final, only one European campaign (but two relegations and numerous near misses).

Then plucking a head coach out of the Championship after forcing out a Champions League (and twice Europa League and twice La Liga) winning manager. A Championship level manager (head coach) who has NEVER managed a team to finish top nine in the Premier League in his entire management career, has only ever reached one cup final (lost it) and has had one campaign in Europe that ended before Hull got to September.

…and it is built on the core principle that we will spend what we have. The cash generated each year through matchday and non-matchday activities, plus any transfer fees received from player sales, determines how much is available to spend. This relates not only to first team playing squad expenditure, but to all other areas of the club. In simple terms, there is one pot of money and spending in one area reduces the amount available for others.

Mike Ashley and his minions using a word like ‘principle’ in connection with how they use and abuse NUFC is hilarious, though not obviously in an amusing way.

They present this as though it is the best and most patently obvious way to run a Premier League club and yet…not a single other PL club is ran like this.

Other clubs work to a long-term plan, not dictated to on a yearly basis by how much is or isn’t available. In certain summers / seasons it might make sense to spend far more money than you have generated and is instantly easily available. The chance to sign a player or players who will set the team / club up for years, potentially setting them up for success! Buying those players also possibly leading to more money generated due to success on the pitch.

As for how much money is there in any particular season / summer, that idea may have some small credibility if this was a club that did everything possible to generate as much money / profit as possible but…

Under Mike Ashley he closed all club shops (apart from SJP one) so not competing with Sports Direct, SD and the rest of his business empire had had free massive advertising for most of his years at Newcastle United and now allegedly pays a pittance into club funds, though not made clear in official NUFC accounts that this indeed does happen. Mike Ashley sold club land to himself and then sold on for a personal profit to developers, the relationship in terms of NUFC club shops (physical and online) and Sports Direct (and now Castore) giving no clarity at all in terms of how it all works and indeed whether Newcastle United make any money whatsoever from shop sales.

Then of course you have ridiculous instances where Mike Ashley publicly states that Rafa Benitez will have ‘every penny’ generated to spend BUT says this knowingly that he was going to take £33m out of the club in the 2018/19 season, meaning that there was in reality nothing to spend! In summer 2018 Rafa forced to make a £20m profit in the transfer window. That £33m was to repay money Ashley put in after he’d relegated NUFC for a second time BUT no decent PL club owner would have done that and left a manager with no transfer kitty and put the club at risk of relegation – instead they would simply see it as an extra cost of running a PL club and money they would hope to get back when they eventually sell the club.

In a ‘normal’ year, our operating model would generate sufficient funds to enable us to make one or two quality first team additions, as well as investing in other areas. This approach takes time and requires careful management and long-term planning, ensuring that we spend the money we generate wisely to benefit the club.

Long-term planning??? You are having a laugh.

Mike Ashley announced in 2013 that a state of the art new training complex would be built asap and that it was essential to allow Newcastle United to be able to compete. Not a brick has ever been laid.

Lee Charnley has defended this in later years saying that spending money on the training complex would then mean less money available on transfers.

Once again, this is NOT normal behaviour for a PL owner. The likes of Leicester with their new £95m training complex see investment like this in the infrastructure – training complex, stadium, academy as essential. However, in most cases they finance it themselves, once again as per above, with any other money owners invest in THEIR club / business, it is done with the expectation of increasing the value of the club and most importantly, making the team / club more competitive. Plus of course, most billionaires buy a Premier League club because they want to do everything they can to make it successful on the pitch, including by putting extra money in. Yet again, since Newcastle’s latest accounts came out, football finance experts have shown that when it comes to clubs investing in infrastructure Mike Ashley’s NUFC are easily the lowest down the years (see HERE), whilst when it comes to owners putting money into their clubs, once again Mike Ashley is lowest of the low (see HERE).

The last two years have been challenging, with Covid-19 having a considerable impact on the club’s finances and therefore the amount of cash we have available to spend. Internally, all parties have long been aware of the budgetary parameters under which we are operating.

ALL clubs are impacted financially by Covid, yet Mike Ashley and his minions want to make out like NUFC are a special case.

Rival Premier League clubs see the need to look longer term and this summer are making the extra effort to help finance squad strengthening as well as other areas of the club. The thing is, the way Mike Ashley does things, he has driven away over 10,000 season ticket holders, over 8,000 empty seats at only second PL home match of season. This all reduces the money, whilst the commercial revenue story under Mike Ashley’s reign (see HERE) has been an absolutely joke.

Ahead of the summer transfer window and having made a significant impact after arriving on loan in January 2021, Joe Willock was identified as the club’s primary target.

Once it was confirmed that the player would be available on a permanent deal, a collaborative decision was taken to pursue this option. All parties were aware as to the implications for further squad consolidation, with the collective view being that securing Joe Willock was the right priority. There was a shared understanding that further additions to the playing squad would be heavily influenced by player trading, both in terms of available funds and space in the squad.

The deal to bring Joe Willock to the club was formally completed on Friday 13th August 2021 and we are beyond delighted to have secured him.

The idea that due to signing Joe Willock, it was impossible to sign any other players in this window, is just a joke. To claim that not even a loan signing could be accommodated, total nonsense.

The thing is as well, is that when it comes to ‘player trading’, Newcastle United are in no way at all a club that operates in a normal fashion.

Mike Ashley insisted on the £43m purchase of Joelinton. He made 32 PL starts in his first season, 23 in his second season, can’t get a PL start this season (0 from 3 so far).

A normal club would have moved Joelinton on long before now, 6 goals in 72 PL appearances and clearly even Steve Bruce not wanting to play him. He should have been sold for whatever his market value is (£10m to a Bundesliga club?) and then money could have been used to pay even for loan deals. However, no way the Brazilian can be sold for his real value because of Mike Ashley!

Our preference to pay transfer fees up front, rather than spreading payments over several years, is well documented. We believe this approach to be in the club’s long-term interests, giving the club far greater certainty and control over its spending in future windows and seasons.

In negotiating/securing this deal post Covid-19, we acknowledged the need to make an exception and, on this occasion, have spread the transfer fee over instalments. We did so this summer to secure a player who we know makes us stronger and who our head coach was unequivocal in his desire to sign.

We sign one player, in instalments, and this is supposed to be seen as a minor miracle.

Yet again, this thing whereby Newcastle usually always buy with total price upfront but happy to sell via instalments. Not one other club does it this way because it puts them at a major disadvantage. Once again, Ashley trying to claim NUFC doing things right way and everybody else wrong. If Newcastle were successful on and off the pitch then maybe he could do so BUT these 14 / 15 seasons have been a disaster!

Since summer 2019, the club has made nine permanent signings and taken five players on loan. Our net spend over this period is c£120m* (£160m spent on players and £40m received from sales). We have delivered on our commitment to spending what we have, and indeed because of our business this summer, have spent more to secure our primary target. To suggest otherwise is misleading and claims that money has been taken out of the club are wholly untrue.

For context, this summer, Sky Sports reported that Newcastle United’s net spend was the tenth highest in the Premier League. The club retained its best players despite the obvious financial challenges.

As for the £160m, since Steve Bruce arrived the nine permanent signings have been Joelinton (£40m), ASM (£20m), Krafth (£5m), Andy Carroll, Mark Gillespie, Ryan Fraser, Jeff Hendrick (all four on frees), Callum Wilson (£20m), Jamal Lewis (£15m) and Joe Willock (£25m). Those nine totals adding up to £125m, so not sure what the extra £35m is for, would have been handy if someone / anyone had been able to ask questions of Mike Ashley or one of his minions as to exactly how these figures are arrived at, as well as everything else in the statement…

Having finished last season in 12th place in the Premier League, and in the top six of the form table over the final nine fixtures, the club at all levels maintains a strong belief in its current squad. We have a talented and committed group of players who have shown that they are fully capable of delivering and we ask all our loyal supporters to get behind their team, because we are stronger together.

‘We are stronger together’…Mike Ashley has indeed got cheek for owt. Absolutely nothing at all done to try and do this, August 2019 seeing Lee Charnley admitting that the club had been a joke when it came to communicating with fans, Charnley apologising on behalf of himself and Ashley, promising that things would be done properly and professionally now. Yet, it has been even worse these last two years!

Twelfth place and top six form in final nine games…yes that’s totally convincing. Lets not mention the run of twenty one matches with only two wins!

Reality is that with less than a week to go of last season, Newcastle still hadn’t reached 40 points even. They beat already relegated Sheff Utd and Fulham to get to 45 points and 12th but only six points covered six clubs from 12th to 17th. In contrast, 11th was 10 points above NUFC and 10th was 14 points above Newcastle.

Those last nine games had three other wins and those were at Burnley where NUFC were abysmal until 10 minutes of sub ASM magic, then the West Ham game where the Hammers gifted a two goal lead and had a man sent off, yet very fortunate to beat the 10 men 3-2 thanks to a late sub Willock goal. Only the win at Leicester really convincing.

No wonder the club is such a mess if Mike Ashley is basing hopes for this season on that!

He forced Rafa Benitez out and yet the Spaniard had top eight form over his final 28 PL games and in the last 16 PL matches it was fifth highest points and goals totals.

This club is not only drifting towards that iceberg again, Mike Ashley and his minions are actively going full steam ahead in that direction.

Yes, we will be all in it together when Mike Ashley takes Newcastle United down yet again.

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