Mike Ashley has been a resounding success as owner of Newcastle United. That is, if you quantify success as having the finances in tip top shape, the books balanced, minimum expenditure for maximum profit. Quick, book the open top bus parade for our wonderfully balanced books. What? What do you mean that doesn’t count as success? That’s what every fan dreams of is it not?
No, it’s not. Mike Ashley is a businessman. Whatever ambitions he harboured for Newcastle United as a football club; be that getting us into the Champions League, or cracking the top 6 every season, those ambitions are dead and gone. So, what exactly is Mike Ashley’s ambition then? Well, like I said, he’s a businessman and he will try and run Newcastle United as such, by reducing expenditure while increasing profit and that he himself will not sustain the club, that it must live within its means and only spends what the club itself can generate ergo become self sustainable Sounds like a decent enough plan when you put it like that.
What does all this jargon mean for the average Newcastle fan though? Well, to put it simply, reducing expenditure means keeping wages low, and not spending much on players; whether that means scouring the French market for a hidden gem, simply scraping the bottom of the barrel for a freebie (or as was the case this summer – sign no one at all). As well as this, it also means jobs for the boys, such as Llambias, Pardew and his most recent disastrous appointment, Joe Kinnear. Obviously, this kind of policy isn’t going to go down too well. Why? Because it lacks ambition and a clear vision to progress as a football club.
What does increasing profits mean? Well in the past it has meant cheapening the heritage of this club by removing the name St James’ Park and associating it with a tacky sports goods store, in the hope that some major company would be willing to sponsor the stadium, all in the hope of earning a few quick bob. Let’s also not forget the bumper TV deal that was agreed that sees Premier League clubs earn around £60m more every year. Needles to say, the fans don’t like that approach either. Why? Because it demeans them and their club’s heritage. So far, not so good Ashley.
What about the fact that Ashley has wiped the club’s debts? That’s a falsity too. The club owed around £80m to the banks when Mike Ashley bought the club, now the club owes £140m, except, this money isn’t owed to the banks, it’s owed to Ashley himself. He hasn’t done this out of the goodness of his heart either. He’s saving on interest, as well as holding the club to ransom, ie the £140m is factored into the current asking price of the club, which is supposedly over £260m at the moment.
Let’s be clear. Successful football clubs cannot be run like a normal business, it is simply not possible. Arsenal are the only club attempting to be self financing, but they have the bonus of Champions League TV revenue and prize money as well as a huge stadium for which they can charge incredibly inflated ticket prices due to being in London, so there is simply no comparison between the two clubs. And let’s not forget, Arsenal have not won anything under this policy of self financing and have recently been able to spend a small fortune in securing one of the hottest talents in world football in Mesut Ozil, therefore meaning we are truly alone in this deluded policy conducted by our owner Mike Ashley.
Why is he doing this to our club? Perhaps he is angered by the venom that we directed at him following the Kevin Keegan saga and wants to reek vengeance, but I don’t believe that for one second. Perhaps he is trying to usher in a new era, as he can foresee the implosion in the finances in world football and that with our tight fiscal policy and relatively healthy finances, we will rise to the top by default. No, that doesn’t seem very likely either.
Could it be that he is not willing to spend a fraction more than is necessary to just keep Newcastle United in the Premier League. After all, we still get a bumper pay day from the TV money even if we finish 17th, so why spend any more money than is necessary? The difference in prize money between finishing 16th and finishing 5th is less than what he would have to spend in order to get us there, so why should he bother? Sit back, let the money roll in, if the fans don’t like it. Tough.
So, in answer to my question. What is Mike Ashley’s ambition for Newcastle United? To make as much money from it as possible. My only hope is that he is squeezing the money from this club before attempting to sell us on for a lower price. I won’t hold my breath though!