Wednesday, September 9, 2020

For Sale

Since August 2008,  only a year after he bought the club and before the fanbase turned on him, Mike Ashley has been publicly declaring his appetite to sell either a share or the whole of Newcastle United.

Despite all of these years of touting the club, despite over a dozen Premier League clubs changing hands in the meantime, Ashley remains yet to sell a single share to any of the many interested parties he claims waste his time.

Only in 2020 was an offer accepted that went to the Premier League for approval.  This takeover failed, but showed that after a decade Ashley was actually a willing seller.

November 2020
Club Statement
"The Club has previously not commented on the arbitration it is pursuing against the Premier League (‘EPL’) with respect to its conduct relating to the proposed takeover because of the confidentiality clause in the EPL's rules.
"However, the Club is aware of public reports which state that, on 17 November, the EPL referred to legal proceedings with the Club (e.g. social media posts referring to the “Club’s own legal case”) in a letter to Newcastle supporters.
"The source of some of the reporting is said to be the EPL. It appears, therefore, that the EPL has leaked the contents of their letter to some of those commenting in the public domain.
"The Club understands that these will be matters of great concern to its fans and therefore considers that, in light of the information disclosed by the EPL, it has no choice but to respond and update its fans in response to this coverage.
"The Club makes no comment on the substance of the arbitration, but it can confirm that it has issued arbitration proceedings against the EPL.
"It is unclear when those proceedings will be resolved, given the approach of the EPL and its lawyers, Bird & Bird. Nevertheless, the Club will continue to use its best efforts to press for a fair, full and timely hearing of its claim.” - source

September 2020
Club Statement
"Newcastle United can confirm that the Premier League has rejected a takeover bid made by PCP Capital Partners, the Reuben Brothers and the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia (PIF) based on its Owners and Directors test.

This conclusion has been reached despite the club providing the Premier League with overwhelming evidence and legal opinions that PIF is independent and autonomous of the Saudi Arabian government.

The club and its owners do not accept that Premier League chief executive Richard Masters and the Premier League have acted appropriately in relation to this matter and will be considering all relevant options available to them.

Mike Ashley understands fans’ frustrations and would like to reassure them that he has been fully committed to ensuring this takeover process reached completion as he felt it was in the best interests of the club. Mike continues to be fully supportive to Steve Bruce, the players and all the staff and wishes them well for the upcoming season." - Source
Premier League Statement
“The Premier League was disappointed and surprised by the Newcastle United Football Club statement regarding its potential takeover by PCP Capital Partners, the Reuben Brothers and the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia (PIF).

“The club’s assertion that the Premier League has rejected the takeover is incorrect.

“The Premier League Board has, on a number of occasions, given its opinion about which entities it believes would have control over the club should the consortium proceed with the acquisition. That opinion is based on legal advice.

“This means the potential takeover could proceed to the next stage should the relevant entities provide all appropriate information. They would then be subject to a suitability assessment by the Board. As an alternative, the Board has repeatedly offered independent arbitration as a way forward since June.

“It is also incorrect to suggest these decisions were taken by any individual; they were agreed unanimously by all Premier League Board members.” - Source

July 2020

PIF, PCP & Reuben Brothers statement
“With a deep appreciation for the Newcastle community and the significance of its football club, we have come to the decision to withdraw our interest in acquiring Newcastle United Football Club,” it read. “We do so with regret, as we were excited and fully committed to invest in the great city of Newcastle and believe we could have returned the club to the position of its history, tradition and fans’ merit.

“Unfortunately, the prolonged process under the current circumstances coupled with global uncertainty has rendered the potential investment no longer commercially viable. To that end, we feel a responsibility to the fans to explain the lack of alternatives from an investment perspective.

“As an autonomous and purely commercial investor, our focus was on building long-term value for the club, its fans and the community as we remained committed to collaboration, practicality and proactivity through a difficult period of global uncertainty and significant challenges for the fans and the club.

“Ultimately, during the unforeseeably prolonged process, the commercial agreement between the Investment Group and the club’s owners expired and our investment thesis could not be sustained, particularly with no clarity as to the circumstances under which the next season will start and the new norms that will arise for matches, training and other activities.

“As often occurs with proposed investments in uncertain periods, time itself became an enemy of the transaction, particularly during this difficult phase marked by the many real challenges facing us all from Covid-19

“We feel great compassion for the Newcastle United fans with whom we shared a great commitment to help Newcastle United harness its tremendous potential and build upon its impressive and historic legacy while working closely with the local community.

“We would like to say that we truly appreciated your incredible expressions of support and your patience throughout this process. We are sorry it is not to be. We wish the team and everyone associated with it much good luck and success.” - Source
Amanda Staveley
“I’m absolutely devastated, I’m so upset, I don’t know how to express it. I’m heartbroken. I can barely speak.  I believe we weren’t just the right partners for Newcastle, we were the only partners.  I don’t want to give up. What would you do?”

“The Premier League wanted the country, Saudi, to become a director of the football club. That’s what this is about.  They were effectively saying ‘PIF wouldn’t be the ultimate beneficial owner, we believe it’s actually the government, therefore we want the country to become a director’, which puts them in an impossible situation.  They feel they weren’t wanted by the Premier League.

“I hope the fans realise what’s happened, that this is a lot more complicated than it might seem.  I want them to understand the whole thing about the directorship, that it would be impossible for a state to become a director.  The Premier League made it so hard. It would be unprecedented. No country has ever become a director of a club. It’s ridiculous.

“They were saying ‘you know what, we won’t reject you but we won’t approve you either, so we’ll just sit here for month after month’.  They could have told us all this before we exchanged.  It’s up to the fans now. Because if the fans want this back on then they’re going to have to go to the Premier League and say this isn’t fair.

“We had a plan for £250 million of investment in the club over the first few years, as much as we could put in, and on top of that, we had massive plans to invest in the city, in housing, everything. We talked with the council.  Newcastle are the last great untapped club. The last great club with so much potential to grow and improve and with a fanbase who were already there and who wanted it so much.  I fell in love with Newcastle. I fell in love with the passion, the fans. It was just this incredible club and I knew that with investment and nurturing it could become even better. It needed TLC. It needed a patient owner.  It desperately needs investment.  That day we first walked into St James’…it felt like we had come home.

“We knew what they needed. We wanted it, too. And I know we could have done it.” - Source

July 2019
Mike Ashley
"I have to assume I will stay running this football club. There are no offers. Define an offer. I'm not a believer any more. Peter Kenyon convinced me last Christmas that it was going to get done. I'm never doing that again. I think I could own this football club for ever. That is my new mental state. The reality is with these deals that once it gets out, if it's not done, it's probably not going to get done.
'The day someone buys Newcastle, they'll do their due diligence - and finished. It will happen like Manchester City. By the time the media find out, it's already complete. There's no need for a delay with Newcastle. It is, honestly, a very well-run football club.
'The last bid, the one from UAE, he's a prince and he's got £38bn or £100bn, all these numbers — well, why would you even care what you're paying then? What difference would £10m either way make? You would want speed, you would want certainty, you would want the keys and to get on with it.
'I will not stand in the way of Newcastle United. I will not stop that, if it happens. If such a person comes along I will think I've done quite a good job and I will want to keep going to watch them. I'll keep a box, because my parents will demand it. Every time there's a story that I've sold, I get the phone call. "You haven't included our box in the sale?" When you own a football club, the whole family are in.' - Source

May 2019
Bin Zayed Group
"In response to the numerous reports in the world media this morning, we would like to comment as follows, we can confirm that representatives of His Highness Sheikh Khaled Bin Zayed Al Nahyan are in discussions with Mike Ashley and his team, about the proposed acquisition of Newcastle United Football Club.  We view it as an honour to have the opportunity to build on the strong support, history and tradition of the club. We have agreed terms and are working hard to complete the transaction at the earliest opportunity." - Source
Bin Zayed Group
"In consideration of the numerous speculations in regards to the timelines of the acquisition of Newcastle United Football Club by Bin Zayed Group, we feel the need to issue this statement.  Terms have been agreed between us and Mike Ashley; these terms have been reflected in a document, signed by both parties, which has been forwarded to the Premier League.  The proof of funds statement was forwarded to Mike Ashley’s lawyers on 17 April 2019.  The so called fit-and-proper Premier League process is a standard procedure which will take time, and we are doing all we can to assist the Premier League during this process.  We feel the need to clarify this point in order for the fans and the general public to understand the timelines." - Source

April 2019
NUFC Accounts
"As a result of the [£33m loan] repayment, the amount due to the owner now stands at £111m, all of which is considered, by the owner, to be long term in nature having been in place for over a decade, and repayable only in the event of the sale of the club. - Source

January 2019
Peter Kenyon
"I know I speak for both of us in that we continue to share a serious determination to finalise the agreement we have to suit both parties as soon as possible in the new year.  We have both spent many months discussing the parameters of a final deal and as you know we have also invested heavily in time and money on our various legal and financial advisors.  And I appreciate the time and effort committed to the detailed discussions by your advisors, lawyers, club, and, of course, yourself.  I fully respect your desire to ensure the next owners of Newcastle United understand the club, football, and have the appropriate financial resources, and I am delighted that you think the investor group led by myself is the best fit.  On my side, I would like to personally assure you that I am committed to conclude our deal as soon as possible and, while we are both perhaps frustrated that we have not progressed as quickly as we would have wished, I would like to express personal gratitude for your patience and integrity in this matter and hope we can continue our discussions in the same spirit." - Source

December 2018
Mike Ashley
"I am hopeful – for the Newcastle fans, for the club, for everybody, that I will be able to step aside and we will be able to get an owner in that will please everybody.  I'd like it to be before the January transfer window.  It's possible. Realistic is maybe too strong a word.  Hopefully, we can carry on the good form – the just recent good form – and we can get the deal done. [Talks are] Not exclusive. But talks are at a more progressed stage than they have ever been. Yes I'm very keen to sell it to the right buyer so that everybody's happy, That would be good news." - Source

October 2018
Fans Forum
The club remains for sale.  The club has a very clear and reasonable process for individuals or groups who express an interest in purchasing the club. There has not been a lot of serious interest and a sale is not close as it stands.  The owner wants a fair price and has been open to the dating of payments to achieve a sale. In addition the buyer must be someone, or a group, that can take the football club forward and support it financially better than he can.  It is important to disclose that there have been groups who have expressed an initial interest, but who have been discouraged with proceeding due to the visibility and scrutiny that comes with the football club.  Anything around the sale will come from the club rather than other sources. - Source

January 2018
NUFC source
“It is only right to let the fans know that there is no deal on the table or even under discussion with Amanda Staveley and PCP. Attempts to reach a deal have proved to be exhausting, frustrating and a complete waste of time" - Source
Amanda Staveley
“I’m very much still interested in buying Newcastle, and our [£350m] bid remains on the table.  I’m very concerned, I’m very surprised and I’m disappointed about what’s been said this week.  The suggestion that we were either wasting time or not serious is absurd. It’s hurtful. Hugely hurtful.  This is something we’ve been working really hard on.  It’s not something we’ve just thrown together. I’m putting a lot of my own capital into this and our investors, who come from around the world, include sovereign wealth funds." - Source

October 2017
St James Holdings Statement
"As a result of increasing press speculation regarding the future of Newcastle United, the owner of the club, St. James Holdings Limited, wishes to clarify its intentions.  As one of the Premier League's oldest and best supported football clubs - and for the benefit of its many fans and supporters in the UK and across the world - Newcastle United requires a clear direction and a path to a bright and successful future.  To give the club the best possible opportunity of securing the positioning and investment necessary to take it to the next level, at what is an important time in its history, its present ownership has determined that it is in the best interests of Newcastle United and its fans for the club to be put up for sale.  To give an incoming owner the maximum possible flexibility to make meaningful investment in the club, including in its playing squad, the sale process will give interested parties the opportunity of deferring substantial payments.  A process will now commence of identifying new ownership for the club that will be capable of delivering the sustained investment in and dedication to the club that is necessary for it to achieve its ambitions" - Source

May 2015
Ashley interviewed on Sky Sports
What is your ambition now?To win something definitely, and by the way, I shall not be selling it until I do.
So the club’s not for sale?Not at any price. When I say win something, if we ever get in the position of a Champions League place, that also qualifies as winning something. - Source

September 2014
NUFC club statement banning the Daily Telegraph following reports the club was back up for sale
Newcastle United has today banned the Daily Telegraph with immediate effect following a report published in its paper yesterday (Thursday, 11th September), headlined 'Newcastle United For Sale As Ashley Eyes Rangers', as well as a follow-up article from the same reporter which appears in the Daily Telegraph today (Friday, 12th September).
The reports by Luke Edwards on 11th September, and again today (12th September), are wholly inaccurate and written with the intention of unsettling the Club, players and its supporters.
This is disgraceful journalism for which the Club and its supporters should receive a full and unreserved apology from those concerned.
The truth is Mike Ashley remains committed to Newcastle United.
For the avoidance of doubt, this means that for the remainder of this season and AT LEAST until the end of next season, Mike Ashley will not, under any circumstances, sell Newcastle United at any price.
The Club cannot be stronger in stating its position on this matter.
It is not acceptable for newspapers to print factually inaccurate reports that are damaging to the Club and to fail to check facts with Newcastle United ahead of publication and then expect to receive access to the Club.
Newcastle United will not tolerate this and will take such action as it deems appropriate.
The ban extends to all reporters working for, or freelancing on behalf of, the Daily Telegraph, as well as Luke Edwards in any capacity he may have working for the paper's sister title or on a freelance basis. - Source
September 2011
Derek Llambias Interview
 Is Ashley considering putting the club up for sale?
"MIKE Ashley has no intention of putting the club up for sale.  He is still extremely passionate about strengthening the club and making it a real success. We are balancing the books and getting the finances in order, but there’s plenty more work to be done and he’s committed to doing that for the long-term.
"That said, it’s worth going back to the analogy of the house that’s not for sale. If suddenly an incredible offer comes in, he may have to consider it.
"From time to time we are approached by people claiming to have an interest in buying the club. Our message to them is clear: buy a box for a commitment of five-seasons and then we’ll know you’re serious. No-one’s taken us up on that offer!
"I’d like to make a further point here. This club can’t support itself without the financial backing of Mike Ashley; we still rely heavily on the owner. To date Mike has invested over £280m into the club, including £140m in interest-free loans. For him to continue to support the club, he has to be interested and enthused to do so. He deserves credit for his financial support but a section of supporters don’t make him feel welcome at St James’ Park, or when he attends away games. Criticism is part and parcel of the job, abuse is not. This makes life uncomfortable and certainly doesn’t make Mike feel more inclined to put his hand once again in his pocket. That’s not stubbornness, it’s human nature. I think most of us would feel exactly the same." - Source

December 2009
Derek Llambias
"We did receive several bids that met the £100m asking price but, despite giving all parties involved our full support in their attempts to push the sale through, only two of those parties completed the due diligence process and reached the sale purchase agreement stage.
"Once those documents were in place, the necessary funding required to complete the sale of the club never actually materialised. So while there were bids on the table, when it came to the crunch none of the bidders actually came up with the agreed funds." - Source

October 2009
Mike Ashley
"Barry Moat has been driving me mad for two years.  If he wants to buy the club, he's got a one-off opportunity to come up with the cash - £80m upfront.  I have to put £20 million a year into the club - I spend more than every other fan put together puts into the club each year. If you can't pay upfront to buy the club, you can't afford it." - Source

September 2009
Derek Llambias:
"[The suggestion an official bid has been lodged is] not true." - Source
Jonathon Brill:
"Discussions are ongoing" - Source
NUFC Statement:
“The £100M asking price has been matched, however, we are still in negotiations and all parties involved are at sale and purchase stage.” - Source

August 2009
Derek Llambias when Barry Moat was revealed as a potential buyer
"We would love to be able to expand further on the sale and managerial position at the club, but we're very sorry we're unable to make any further comment at the present time." - Source
Derek Llambias later
"'We're in negotiations with Barry. [The deal is] there or thereabouts." - Source
Newcastle spokesman:
"There will be an update on the situation on Monday." - Source
Club statement:
"Newcastle United Football Club confirms that it has extended its deadline to Barry Moat to table an offer for the Club.The extension has been granted in order to allow Barry Moat and his advisors to conclude funding arrangements with Barclays, current bankers, for the continuation of last season's £39m facility.This would allow a formal offer to be tabled." - Source

July 2009
Derek Llambias:
"There have been more than two bids at £100m" - Source
Derek Llambias again:
"I can say we are very close to completing a deal and it could happen next week." - Source
June 2009
Club Statement officially announces the club is for sale:
"The board of Newcastle United can today confirm that the club is for sale at the price of £100million. Interested parties should contact Newcastle United (or Keith Harris at Seymour Pierce) for further details. The club will not be making any further comment at the present time." - Source
Derek Llambias talks up interest:
"There are three or four interested parties who we are talking to. They don't want to be known just yet. That is how we are trying to do business. That is the proper way to do it, not by talking through the media." - Source

May 2009
Ashley quoted by the times following relegation announces he is selling the club
"It has been catastrophic for everybody. I've lost my money and I've made terrible decisions. Now I want to sell it as soon as I can." - Source

December 2008
Mike Ashley's programme notes announce he is not selling the club

"I have withdrawn Newcastle United from the market, and for me 2009 will be the year in which we drive the Club forward together. Even when I haven't been at games I have remained a keen supporter, kicking and heading every ball and cheering the team on TV and being the first to congratulate Joe whenever there's a good result. When I took the decision to put the Club up for sale in September I made a point of saying two things were very important. Firstly, any potential buyer would have to show they had the best interests of Newcastle United at heart and had both the commitment and finance to be worthy custodians of such a fine football club before I would even consider doing a deal. And secondly, I gave you my word that as long as I remain owner, this Club would continue to be run responsibly at all levels. I hope you will accept that I have stood by that pledge." - Source

September 2008
In a statement following the departure of Kevin Keegan and protests from supporters, Ashley announces the club is for sale
"I am putting the club up for sale. I hope that the fans get what they want and that the next owner is someone who can lavish the amount of money on the club that the fans want." - Source

August 2008
In an interview with the club magazine, Mike Ashley made the case for other investors coming into the club.
"I'd like to start with people in the North East because there are some great people who come to our matches who sit in the corporate areas, and wouldn’t it be great to have local backing for what we are doing? Some of them would talk to me last season and say, "Mike, is there an opportunity for us to come into the club again because we were shareholders in the plc previously?" I'd tell them we'd look at it at the end of the season as there was no rush but why wouldn't I welcome people who wanted to invest?" - Source

Saturday, March 7, 2020

Media Bans

Media bans occur frequently under Mike Ashley, whether he doesn't like what they write or he wants money off them to have the access to report on the club.  Ashley frequently wants to get a message beyond readers of the club website though and for that he uses his preferred outlets of Sports Direct and Martin Samuel.  Using them, he is always able to make his case unchallenged and knows he'll get airtime or column inches that unquestioningly disseminate his propaganda.

Example's where dissent has led to journalists having access withdrawn:

March 7th, 2020 - Craig Hope
Sportsmail’s Craig Hope has been given a one-week ban by Newcastle after a story this week which revealed details of Allan Saint-Maximin’s disagreement with Steve Bruce over his fitness.
September 10th, 2019 - Media banned from SD AGM
Just been told Sports Direct is banning all media from its AGM tomorrow. Never a good look when a company shuts out journalists. What happened to its “very open” promise in 2016?
June 10th, 2015 - Only Media Partners allowed at Steve McClaren's introduction
Newcastle ban local media from Steve McClaren unveilingNew manager is only allowed to speak to Newcastle United's two 'media partners' with even local paper banned from event
September 19th, 2014 - Luke Edwards and The Telegraph
February 18th, 2014 - Sunday Express
The Club feels it necessary to respond to the article published in the Sunday Express newspaper, headlined 'Pardew's One Game From Sack - Beat Villa or it's the Bullet', and claimed as an 'exclusive' by the paper. The article was written by John Richardson.  Newcastle United can confirm that the Sunday Express is banned with immediate effect

 October 28th, 2013 - The Journal, Chronicle and Sunday Sun
Newcastle United have banned three local newspapers from matches and press conferences in protest at coverage of a recent fans' demonstration against Mike Ashley, the club's owner.
January 20th, 2010 - Sunday Sun
Following an article that appeared as a back page lead in the Sunday Sun on 10 January 2010, healined 'Desert-ers Leave Toon', Newcastle United, having taken exception to the accuracy, tone, inference and content of the article, contacted the Sunday Sun to seek a full page retraction of the said article in the following Sunday's paper (17 January).  The retraction was not forthcoming in the manner requested and as such the Club have banned the Sunday Sun, indefinitley, from St. James' Park and the Training Ground.
March 25th, 2009 - Alan Oliver
Newcastle, a club in turmoil on and off the pitch, have surpassed themselves by banning journalist Alan Oliver from St James’ Park just days after he received a lifetime achievement award for the dignified way he devoted a career to covering the team for the Newcastle Evening Chronicle for more than 30 years. 
The highly respected Oliver, now a pensioner working for a Sunday newspaper, was the co-author of a story speculating on sidelined manager Joe Kinnear’s health — a fair subject on Tyneside — which upset the board. 
Their ridiculous over-the-top reaction against a newspaperman who has written more positive paragraphs about the football club than anyone says everything about the buffoons running Newcastle. 
March 22nd, 2009 -  Dave Kidd
I was banned after a People Sport story which claimed the manager [Kinnear] had suffered a health setback.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Communication

Since Ashley arrived, the NUFC heirarchy has pivoted back and forth between apologies for lack of communication, promises of making improvements in how they communicate, excuses as to why they have not or will not communicate and blunt refusals to comment on anything as a matter of policy.

It is a requirement placed upon every Premier League club that they communicate with fans.  In addition to naming a Supporter Liaison Officer that supporters can contact, the club should also:
"provide for consultation with them on a structured and regular basis through forums, questionairres and focus groups and by the publication of current policies on major issues in an easily digested format" - Source
Newcastle United have frequently failed to hit their own target of hosting a quarterly Fans Forum.  The latest forum minutes are archived here.

November 2019
After 14 months without a fans forum or any information why the delay, the club announced a new approach.

Newcastle United is introducing new Fan Focus Groups which will give supporters an opportunity to have their say on the club’s operations and future planning. Part of a wider review of communications, the groups will partly replace the club’s existing Fans Forum, which was introduced in 2013, and will be dedicated to four key areas of the club’s operations – Ticketing, Stadium & Matchday Experience, Community & Foundation and the club’s inclusion equality movement, United As One.  
Each of the four groups will have two meetings per season (eight Fan Focus Groups in total per season). They will be attended by the club’s relevant heads of department and may feature representatives from associated organisations. We want to make it easy for fans to follow what their fellow supporters have raised and how the club is responding. Once meetings have taken place, feedback will be captured in an online Action Tracker, which will detail the issue raised, the club’s response and if the matter is on-going or concluded.
The club’s managing director, Lee Charnley, has made a commitment to meeting the chairperson of existing democratically elected supporter groups including Newcastle United Supporters Trust (NUST) and Newcastle United Disabled Supporters Association (NUDSA) during the season. These meetings will be an opportunity to listen to independent feedback and work together for the benefit of Newcastle United and its supporters. Informal in nature, these meetings will not be formally captured in meeting minutes as the Fans Forum has been, but may conclude with a mutually agreed communication where appropriate. 
The club is supporting its fan engagement efforts with a fresh commitment to wider supporter communication, building on recent national and local media interviews with the club’s owner, managing director, head coach, players and staff, as well as matchday programme notes. Going forward, fans will hear more from across the club through both the wider media and the club’s own channels, including the club’s website, NUFC TV, social media accounts and by direct email.

August 2019
Lee Charnley Chronicle interview following the opening game of the season which was the target of a supporter boycott
"We accept we need to communicate more.  Will I do it in every programme? No.  But as a minimum I will do it at the end of each window and at the end of the season.  This is just one element though of our commitment to communicate more regularly.  "Improved communication is something we have been discussing with our Fans Forum for some time and something we are committed to.  That will involve the Fans Forum, me doing some interviews with the local press and other media outlets/channels. But it will also involve other members of the team. - Source
Lee Charnley Programme notes for the first game of the season which was the target of a supporter boycott
“We want to communicate clearly and proactively, but it is important that we do so at the right time.  Sometimes we must adopt a ‘no comment’ policy and I accept that can be – and has been – frustrating.  There are reasons behind that approach.  Often, there are legalities at play or we may take the decision in order to respect the integrity of a process or the individuals involved.  What we won’t do is fuel speculation by offering a running commentary.  Instead, when we have something definitive to say, we will say it, as we did as soon as Rafa’s position became clear.
“Whilst I have stated above that I felt our approach during the summer was necessary, I accept we need to do more from a communication perspective moving forward.  There is certainly a need to communicate more as a club and to let fans know where we are heading collectively.  That goes beyond the responsibility of just the head coach or manager in isolation; something we have relied on far too heavily in the past.  We want to give you more of an insight into what happens across the club and you will therefore be hearing more from me, as you are today, and from our staff across the football club and Foundation over the season.” - Source

September 2018
Fans Forum
The club is facing a maelstrom of adverse publicity in relation to its finances and what it isn’t spending. What is the answer to that?”
The club agreed that it was important to engage in further communications around its finances, which is an area in which there is a great deal of confusion and misinformation.
“The Fans Forum would extend an invitation to Mike Ashley and the manager to attend.”
The club agreed to pass those requests on. The club agreed it will add contact details for Fans Forum members to the club’s website pending the relevant GDPR process and that a WhatsApp group would be established for direct communication with the club. - Source
At the time of writing there is no Whatsapp group as promised and just four of the sixteen members of the forum are contactable through the club website, which is the same as there was at the time of the September 2018 forum.  You can check if the club has yet kept it's promise to add contact details for forum members here.

July 2015
Fans Forum
"Following SMc's recent email which was sent directly to supporters, the club outlined changes to how it will be communicating with supporters.  Direct communication to supporters will be a key element and emails will be sent on a regular basis from key individuals within the club.  As part of the club's new strategy, it will communicate with supporters directly so they get the news before anyone else does.  The club will also be delivering more content via official channels, more short clips from the training ground, when the team are away, the academy etc. and giving fans an insight behind the scenes.  The club underlined that SMc will play an important role in communication but that fans will get an insight from right across the club to share that responsibility." - Source

March 2015
Fans Forum
"The club has continued to promote the Fans Forum via social media but will look at ways to enhance this so that more fans are engaging in the process. The club contested the notion that the board and management pay ‘lip service’ to fans in the Forum, pointing out that all questions are included and are answered honestly and openly, save for the very few occasions when the board has been unable to disclose commercially sensitive or confidential information. The accusation is usually from people who know little about the Fans Forum or have no involvement in it.
"The board stated it is aware of supporters' concerns and is reviewing how the club communicates and how its messages are delivered and presented to supporters.
"The club is looking to improve the means by which it communicates." - Source

January 2015
Lee Charnley explains club comms to the Chronicle
"I think we do communicate but we need to find a better way to communicate.  Our view was that Alan was the one who was front and centre and will take all of the questions on all areas of the club. Alan was then left, sometimes, in a difficult position answering questions that he probably wasn’t best suited to answer.  This is an opportunity for us with a new head coach coming in – there’s more clarity about his role and what he does. His role is coaching and that’s what he can talk about.
If that’s the case it’s only right that I then support him in terms of the messaging going out. If I’m saying ‘Only talk about team selection and the games’ there needs to be another voice.  I think the information has been out there, through the fan’s forum and through the statements, but it’s how we get it out there that needs to improve." - Source

February 2014
Fans Forum
It was explained that while the Fans Forum had been selected as the Club's preferred method of direct fan communication, match day programme notes under the name of its former director of football had publicly carried consistent board-level messaging in relation to a wide range of matters throughout the season.  The board clarified that Joe Kinnear was involved in the drafting of the notes but that the overall messaging was determined collaboratively and could be read as communication from the board. - Source

September 2011
Derek Llambias
"Why is there such a lack of communication with the fans from Mike Ashley and his board? 
WHEN Mike Ashley bought the club back in 2007, we were keen to engage with supporters and did so with some regularity.  As a result of some of the things we’ve done in the past there will always be fans who will not like nor believe what we have to say. The upshot is that when we speak publicly more often than not we are criticised. Some football club owners and board members talk regularly in public and enjoy it, others don’t. We much prefer to concentrate on running the club and letting the football do the talking.  After the statement I made last week, it was interesting to read comments from some supporters saying “I just wish they’d shut up!” Of course everyone has a different view, that’s football for you, which as we all know is a very passionate game.  We understand the natural appetite for information and the need for fans to have clarity on the direction we’re taking the club. It’s why we have committed to an annual mission statement from the board, along with regular communications from our media department.  Last year the media team facilitated over 500 interviews with the manager, players and other club officials which demonstrates that the club does place importance on communicating with fans." - Source

May 2010
Derek Llambias
"All media articles and interviews regarding footballing matters will come through the Newcastle United Media Officer, and be answered by the Manager and/or coaching staff with the Manager's authority. The Manager can give interviews in respect of footballing issues and any other sporting issues that the press may be interested in around Newcastle United Football Club.
No interviews will be given by any members of the Board in respect of any footballing issues.
The only individuals who will talk about player issues will be those connected with the football administration of the Club i.e. the Manager/Assistant Manager by way of either direct interview or through prepared statements via Newcastle United Football Club's Media Officer. 
There will be no comment from the Board regarding the purchase of players.
There will be no comment from the Board regarding the sale of players.
There will be no comment from the Board regarding ongoing contract talks with players presently at Newcastle United Football Club or with those that the club may enter into negotiation with.
There will be no comment from the Board regarding current pay structures at Newcastle United. 
There will be no comment from the Board regarding players at other clubs in respect of their "interest" at playing for Newcastle United. 
There will be no comment from the Board to players' agents regarding any of the above whether those agents are acting for their clients in a buying or selling capacity. 
The Board will not make any comment to the media regarding any players that they are seeking to purchase. The Board will deal with agents on their fixed terms of business and part of those terms will include clauses relating to privacy. 
The Board will not comment to the media regarding any players being sold by Newcastle United and the Board will deal with agents on the usual terms of business including explicit terms of privacy." - Source

February 2009
Derek Llambias
“When Chris Mort was here he was very proactive with the Press. When I came on the board, Mike and I discussed it and we basically wanted to keep a lower profile. Then within no time at all KK happened. And then it just got worse and whatever we said got worse. So we decided to keep as low a profile as possible, get on with our business plan, move forward with what we were doing with our management team and to assist whatever manager was coming in as best as possible.” - Source

January 2009
Joe Kinnear
“Mike is going to speak to the Press when the window shuts." - Source

December 2008
Mike Ashley
"I am the first to accept there have been times this season when you would have liked to have heard more from me direct, particularly at certain points. There have been reasons why I have not have been able to do that, but in the new year we will look to communicate with you more about what we are doing at St.James' Park, be it through the club's official website, programme and magazine as well as the wider media.” - Source
November 2007
Chris Mort
“We’ve made a conscious effort to go out and meet people. That’s partly to promote the club, but also to hear what they have to say, making this a club that they feel a part of. I spend a lot of time walking around the city, just to get the place under my skin.” - Source

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Training Facilities & Academy

In 2013 Newcastle United announced that they would build a new multi-million pound training facility.  Since then, the message had been fairly consistent from the club, managers and staff that improvements are needed.  There has not been anything approaching the announced overhaul, but at least there was recognition that it's something that is required.

Then in 2018 Mike Ashley started making noises in opposition to this view. In his letter to Secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Wright in August 2018, he said it's fine as it is.  This was soon followed by a public argument for prioritising the first team squad over the academy and facilities from Lee Charnley.  So, ground still hasn't been broken on the upgrade announced in 2013.

October 2019
Despite the stated position of the club being that the Academy would not be a priority and investment there was beyond their means if they were to spend on the first team, Lee Charnley took the opportunity of the Longstaff brothers playing together for the first time , and winning against Manchester United, to claim rather than a cost saving, the club have a policy of cultivating local talent with a goal of promoting one academy product every year into the first team:

“To see Sean [Longstaff] do it last year and Matty get his opportunity — and he looked like it was his 25th or 50th game, not his first — was so pleasing for everyone. I think it was fantastic and we’ve seen the public reaction, not just the Newcastle public. I saw what Gary Neville tweeted after the game (he praised the boys and said their performance made him happy).  We want to be the best academy in the region. Our vision is we want local boys to look at it and think it’s not going to be full of boys from London, Manchester or abroad. Between nine and 16, it will be an academy with boys predominantly from the local area. There will be exceptions but generally, it will be local.  Other clubs may move boys around the country, sign them at 12, 13, 14, move their education. We’re not doing that. Consciously, we have made a decision not to do that and to give local boys the opportunity.  People say it might be because of this reason [no wanting to spend money] or that but it’s not. It’s a conscious decision to get local boys because we want local boys to see what’s happened with Paul [Dummett], Sean and Matty, and say that’s who they want to be.  They’ll know, if they’re good enough and work hard enough, they’ll get an opportunity at their hometown club. That’s what we want.  [The club’s] ultimate aim is that one player every year comes through our system and ends up in our first-team squad. That is what we want to achieve.” - Source

August 2019
Lee Charnley argues for prioritising the first team squad over the academy and facilities in an interview with the Chronicle
"What we have said is, it is about priorities.  There is a pot of money. Where is the greater need? At this time it's on field.  It's not unreasonable, the pot of money can only go so far. You go and spend it on the training ground it means there is less to spend on the team.  Spend it on the Academy, there is less to spend on the team.  Spend too much on wages, there's less to spend on the team.  That doesn’t mean we don’t spend in all those areas, because we do, but our view has been at this point in time the priority is what goes on to the field.  It doesn’t mean we don't want to update the training ground.  Does it mean at some point in time we would like to update the training ground? Absolutely, yes.  It is about priorities. It doesn’t stop us doing what we need to do on a daily basis.  Our pitches are very good, our gym is perfectly adequate and functional.  Do we have a swimming pool or water facilities? No.  Would we like to have it at some stage?  Absolutely." - Source
A cryptic comment in an article for the athletic from Rafa Benitez suggest an ulterior for Ashley being the only person not keen to upgrade the training ground
"They told me they didn’t want to invest in the academy or the training ground — if they like, I can explain the reason why Mike Ashley refused to do that.  Their idea of a project was a policy of signing players under 24 and, in my opinion, the budget available was not enough to compete for the top 10." - Source

July 2019
In an interview with Mike Ashley in the Daily Mail, the claim was made that a £20m training ground improvement was put in writing to, then manager, Rafa Benitez
"Newcastle have a record of their correspondence with Benitez which includes the openness to an eight-year deal, and a pledge of £20m to improve training facilities." - Source 

April 2019
In an interview, Lee Charnley reiterates that the cost of a training ground upgrade is now the excuse to not invest, rather than uncertainty over the league status of the club or any disruption it would cause the squad:
“We are looking at a training ground building project that is potentially going to be between £15 m and £20million.  If you were to ask me now, do I think we are best served spending that on a new training facility or spending it on improving the team, now, today in the short-term, I think that money is best spent on the team.  We have revisited the plans that came out and we now have a different design. We have also got a different build structure.  In my experience, has a player turned round and said I’m not signing for Newcastle United because of your training facilities? No. Did it stop us getting promoted out of the Championship, did it stop us finishing tenth, did it stop us having a good season this season? No. Is it something at some point in the future, if we could and it was the right time to spend the money, we would look at improving? Yes.” - Source

September 2018
Eddie Rutherford, NUFC facilities manager, in an interview with The Chronicle
"Yes, we know we need a [training] building long-term, we know that.
It’s common knowledge we have plans for the training ground
We have one pitch outside we want to upgrade – there are plans.
within the training ground there are lots of things which have been done over the last few years and lots of things we want to do and the same at the academy.
If I say I want all this money to do everything I want to do in one go, I’m not going to get it so you need to be sensible. These are things we need to do." - Source
In the Fans Fourum, it's stated that the cost of a training ground upgrade is now the excuse to not invest, with limited funds available and those funds best reserved for buying first team players.
There is a shared aim to improve training facilities but in prioritising its needs, the club feels its overall budget is currently better spent on the team.  Eddie Rutherford’s view was that the club’s facilities were by no means the worst in the Premier League.
Is the aim just not to be the worst?
The club stated that was absolutely not its aim. It always wants to improve in all areas and that will continue. Whilst there might be differences around the timeline, what all parties want is ultimately the same. 
Do those plans include hydrotherapy facilities?
The club confirmed that would be an inclusion. 
What is the timescale?
The club is currently unable to put a timescale on the new training ground building.  However, plans have been drawn up and it would be built modularly, around the existing facility. This change to the plan was at the suggestion of the manager in order to minimise disruption to the players and all parties agree this is a significantly better approach than the original plans. 
Given there’s one pot of money, something has to give; the timescale on the training ground, or investment in the playing side. Is that fair to say?
The club agreed, stating that at this time the squad was its priority and full focus.
 - Source
At the same time the club argued for the de-prioritisation of the Academy
"The club believes the debate around Academies is intensifying. There is a belief that it is becoming more and more difficult to bring through young talent, with managers generally reluctant to call on Academy players in the Premier League. The club also believes the current rules make it easier for the big five or six teams in the country to secure the best players from all other Academy systems." - Source
August 2018
Mike Ashley, in a letter to Secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Wright.
"Our training facilities have improved significantly during my tenure. They are fit for purpose and very clearly do not have a negative impact on performance, given we secured a place within the top 10 of the Premier League last season." - Source

June 2017
Fans Forum
"The club is continuing to discuss the development of the training ground but is currently prioritising investment in other areas incuding the squad, rather than on the immediate construction of brand new facilities.  While plans haven’t changed significantly, there have been modifications to the process in consultation with the manager and the club is aiming to minimise disruption to the team. There is currently no timescale on developments but the club remains committed to the long term project.  The club reassured members that while it would like to improve aspects of the training ground building, the outdoor and indoor pitches that players use for match preparation are as good as anywhere else in the Premier League." - Source

August 2016
Fans Forum
"The club explained that it had enhanced its initial Training Centre plans significantly and that discussions had taken place with Rafa Benítez prior to any work commencing.  Following those discussions, it was agreed that knocking down the entire building could be extremely disruptive, particularly given the team’s current focus.  Accordingly, the club is exploring how the building could be developed modularly; enabling the team to remain in the Training Centre while still allowing for significant improvements to the building infrastructure.  Eddie Rutherford confirmed that in the meantime, significant investment had been over the summer months to enhance the layout of the current building and gym in consultation with Rafa Benítez. There has also been a brand new artificial surface laid at both the training centre and Academy.  The club reemphasised its original commitment to significantly improving the club’s training facilities going forward." - Source


June 2016
Rafa Benitez on priorities after becoming manager
"The first few days after I confirmed I was staying, I spent in Newcastle at the training ground and the Academy, meeting with staff and planning the changes we needed to make to these areas of the Club." - Source

February 2016
Fans Forum
"The club explained that it had reviewed its construction plans to see if enhancements could be made. Those improvements have been added, resulting in a superior facility to the original drawings. Those plans are with architects and the club will proceed at the most appropriate time. The club still has the same desire to improve those facilities." - Source

October 2015
Fans Forum
Are there any updates on the club’s new training facility?Club reply – The club took the original decision to delay construction for two reasons. Firstly, its league position at a time when it was required to sign contracts for work to start in May 2015 and, thereafter, to minimise disruption in the first season of a new head coach.  The plans have since been revisited to see if any enhancements can be made and that is on going. The club is committed to upgrading its training facilities at the most appropriate time. - Source

July 2015
Fans Forum

The club outlined that planning has been approved, tenders had been out and prices had been supplied. In order to proceed, contracts needed to be signed well in advance but because of the position the club found itself in towards the end of the season, the decision was taken not to commit at that time.  Along with the head coach, the club is now identifying the best time to start work and is mindful of disruptions mid-season. - Source

November 2013
Joe Kinnear, Director of Football at the time, on the announcement of a new multi-million pound training facility
"This is a hugely exciting development for Newcastle United. We have one of football's great stadiums and we are delighted to now be announcing plans for a training complex which will rival any in Europe.  Top players and top teams need top training and medical facilities. Our current training ground has served the Club very well but the new complex will give us all of the ingredients that we need to continue maintaining and enhancing the performance of elite footballers. It will also be an added attraction when we are looking to recruit players." - Source
Club Statement outlining the details of a new multi-million pound training facility
"The current intention is that work will get underway in May 2015 and when complete in early 2016, the Magpies will occupy one of the finest training facilities of its kind in Europe.  While existing training pitches and a modern indoor training hall will be retained, the Club's current Training Centre building will be demolished and replaced by a much larger, high-tech structure.  It will accommodate newly-designed changing, training, rehabilitation, medical, leisure and catering facilities and will also introduce the latest aquatic technology to the site, with a 20-metre swimming pool, a hydrotherapy and fitness pool and specialist equipment to aid injury prevention and recovery.  The new construction will also create a fitness centre double the size of the Club's existing gymnasium, as well as administrative space, a presentation suite for match analysis and a new media suite." - Source


Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Every Penny Available for Transfers

Over and over again, Mike Ashley and his representatives at Newcastle United use the same line about not taking a penny out of the club, and has specifically stated that this includes repayments of borrowings.  In truth Mike Ashley has been repaid £44m of his loans since 2012 in addition to other streams of value such as free advertising, merchandise contracts and property sales.

October 2019
An official NUFC statement in response to criticism of Mike Ashley from Jeremy Corbyn concedes loan repayments have been made and that (very specifically) the owner has not taken a penny in interest, salary or dividend, ignoring the value he's taken in free advertising, merchandising and property sales:
"Financially, other than sums provided to the club on a short-term, interest-free basis and​ ​repaid to​ ​him as intended, we would like to make it clear that Mike Ashley has not taken a​ ​penny out of​ ​Newcastle United in interest, salary or dividend, as is customary at many clubs.  As stated on numerous occasions before, every penny Newcastle United has will continue to​ ​be​ ​available to it." - Source
August 2019
Lee Charnley matchday programme notes
“I have to stress that every penny we make really does go into making this club better.  That principal has been debated and questioned, but we are audited independently and have to provide regular financial information and updates to the Premier League so there is no hiding place.” - Source

July 2019
In a Daily Mail interview Mike Ashley claims he takes no loan repayments, contradicting the club accounts referenced below.
"I could say to Lee Charnley, our managing director, I'll have £10m, £12m. But a good custodian will make every penny count. No interest, no repayments.  So in that way I'm a good custodian" - Source

April 2019

Accounts to 30 June 2018, reveal that Mike Ashley prioritised a £33m loan repayment to himself over funding the transfers or training ground improvements Rafa Benitez wanted
"Subsequent to the Statement of financial position date, and consistent with the Group's previously stated policy of repaying short term borrowing, £33m was repaid to Mr MJW Ashley and companies under his control" - Source
September 2018
In the fans forum the club confirm Mike Ashley has received a loan repayment of some amount and all "short term" loans will be repaid by the end of the financial year.
"By the end of the financial year we aim to pay back what is owed, in terms of short term funding, to whomever it is owed. The amount owed to the owner was disclosed in last accounts and the figure is currently less than that." - Source

May 2018

Mike Ashley statement
"Rafa, as always, has my full support, and contrary to some media reports that portray me as a pantomime villain, I will continue to ensure that every penny generated by the club is available to him." - Source

August 2017

Mike Ashley interview
You've mentioned you can't take on a country like that, I don't want to ask you how much money you're giving Rafa Benitez..
MA: Not enough. Sorry to interrupt, but it's not enough. Very simple. It's not enough. And Rafa knows that, it's not enough, it's not a secret. Every penny the club generates he can have, but it doesn't generate enough. It's Newcastle United, it doesn't have a £40m a year stadium naming rights deal, it doesn't. I don't want the fans to watch this interview and think: 'Great, Rafa's getting £150m in the morning.' He's not. With Lee Charnley's help, and Lee answers to Rafa by the way, not the other way around, let's be crystal clear, Rafa makes all the final decisions on players out, players in, but he has to do it with the money the club have. I have put my £250m in the football club, guys, that's it, there is no more from me, now the club has to generate its own money. - Source

May 2017

Mike Ashley statement
“I’ve confirmed to Rafa and Lee that they can have every last penny that the club generates through promotion, player sales and other means in order to build for next season.” - Source

April 2013

Accounts to 30 June 2012, reveal that Mike Ashley prioritised an £11m loan repayment to himself over funding transfers

"Mr MJW Ashley also continued to provide loan facilities to the Group during the year.  The total balance outstanding at 30 June 2012 was £129 million (2011 - £140 million)" - Source

February 2011

Derek Llambias, after the sale of Andy Carroll
“Mike Ashley has only ever put money into this football club; he has never taken a single penny out.  And he won’t take a single penny of this £35 million either - all the money will go to the club and we are already working on identifying transfer targets for the summer." - Source 

September 2011

Derek Llambias in a Chronicle interview
"We said that not a penny would be taken out of the club and that is exactly what we have done." - Source