This is it man, this means war. Any chance of a swift kiss and make up routine between the once comfortable bed buddies; Mike Ashley and The Chronicle has well and truly been put to rest with the bullish front page that has been printed by the local newspaper today.
The headline “Banned But Not Gagged” is centred with a number of other front page stories from the past in which the Chronicle is trying to show the Newcastle United faithful that they have not been the cosy ally of the club all along. Past headlines such as “Sell Up And Go” or “March If You Want Him Out” from past editions demonstrate that the Chronicle have represented the feelings of the fans once before, and are trying to do so again.
How the newspapers – The Sunday Sun, The Journal and The Chronicle, react to this press ban will largely determine what the stance of the newspapers will be for the foreseeable as we enter into an increasingly turbulent time with Mike Ashley at the helm. Amidst a growing wave of discontent among the fans about on the field and off field events, it would appear that Ashley has presented his detractors with a massive opportunity. The one thing he did not need to be doing when the pressure started mounting was alienating one of the few avenues of support he had held. Having done that, it is up to the journalists now to choose which side are they on – Ashley, or the fans. The headline being run in the Chronicle this morning would seem to indicate what mast they are nailing their colours to.
Another thing that Ashley doesn’t seem to have banked on is the fury that people hold over banning the freedom of the press – a phenomenon only familiar in parts of the world with authoritarian rule – as it runs contrary to what most people would associate with as their freedom of expression. By doing this Ashley has actually afforded more publicity to those who were inadvertently the cause of the press ban, namely, Time4Change and the protest march. The organisers of this protest march could not only have wished for better publicity from this incident, nor could they have hoped for a better recruitment tool for their campaign. If one march, which consisted of around 1000 people could evoke this sort of reaction from Ashley, then imagine what a sustained campaign targeting his brand could achieve?
The NUJ (National Union of Journalists) have sent Ashley a strongly worded letter in which they are condemning what they call a “serious attack” on its members from doing their job which is to report the news in a balanced and fair manner. Ashley is getting it from all angles; The press are up in arms, the fans are up in arms, the team is in disarray following an embarrassing derby day defeat and Ashley simply does not know how to cope with the situation. This is not some business genius who calculates his every move. This is a maverick reactionary who has gotten to where he is by being ruthless and riding roughshod over anyone and everyone who disagreed with his methods. He has met his match finally by pushing the people of Newcastle too far. It is time we stood up for ourselves, stood up for our press, and stood up for our club. It really is Time for Change.
What do you think? Is the bold headline from the Chronicle a real statement of intent? Will they begin representing the true opinions of the fans and general feelings of discontent? Do you think Ashley has messed up big time here? I’d love to hear your views.