Newcastle United is a lot of things. Perennial underachiever. Fanatically supported. And, whether you like it or not, very much the property of Mike Ashley.
Ashley took complete control of the club in 2007 and proceeded to pay off debts that had been accumulated over a period of years. The amount paid for this totalitarianism is reported to be around £130m.
He’s gone on to make a fool of himself time and time again, which reflects badly on him. But he’s a grown man. Sort of. Still, the fact remains that Newcastle United are owned by this man and despite the endless wish for him to sell the club, the fans must remember that they haven’t spent £130m – he has.
Therefore, the club is his to mismanage.
Certainly, in an ideal world every club on the planet is owned by the fans and the boardroom decisions are made by a democratically elected board of supporters with the club’s best interests at heart. But TV money has pushed the value of football clubs to another level – out of reach of the regular, everyday Magpie. Unfortunately, football clubs are now luxury items for the wealthy – who often forsake the clear emotional attachment that thousands have with their new plaything.
Ashley doesn’t even conduct himself in a business-like manner, but that wasn’t seen as a problem early on. He was ‘different’. Now he’s everything else under the sun, because fans aren’t getting the investment they feel they deserve.
But that’s up to him.
It’s worth remembering that should he continue to make poor decisions at Chairman level, the club’s value will depreciate. While the language being used makes it seem like little more than an ill-advised investment with no non-monetary consequences, relegations are traumatic experiences.
However, if the club had continued to flourish, we wouldn’t be having this conversation in the first place. This is the reality that many on the outside of the ‘top six’ will soon face. The difference between finishing eighth and seventeenth means very little on a balance sheet, yet it changes thousands of people’s mindsets and enhances their lives every single week.
There’s a comfort-zone in football now – where being associated with the Premier League makes people money. All they need to do is be part of it. Given the financial backing the clubs in the European spots have, no investor can be expected to compete with them. There’s generally nothing to play for in the top tier of English football anymore – and clubs that occupy non-European spots are little more than stable stock for semi-serious businessmen.
It’s why managers change so often: relegation is the biggest fear.
While going down can easily be made up for on the football pitch, it doesn’t translate as easily when you speak about millions of pounds in a ledger.
While probably unwise to put your trust in Ashley’s IQ, he took a gamble over ten years ago and now believes he can make a profit from an asset. In this sense, he has every right to look for any figure he wants. He’s more than entitled to wait until the revenues from the new television deals are known. The Premier League is only getting richer, and he has one of only twenty clubs in that marketplace.
Newcastle fans might not like it, but the foundation of the club they support rests with someone else’s bank account.