Mike Ashley. A name that is enough to send any Newcastle fan into a fit of rage. Though he may not have much criticism levelled at him currently, having secured three new signings last week, this has covered up a rather large misdemeanour of his. Mike Ashley’s Newcastle are still relying on the furlough scheme to pay non-playing staff.
Football clubs, in particular, have been criticised over the past few months for their respective use of the furlough scheme. Liverpool and Spurs were among the sides lambasted for even thinking of partaking in April, yet Newcastle United, somehow, have managed to continue their abuse of the government scheme, seemingly under the radar, right until its end.
To put this into perspective, Newcastle are the 20th richest club in world football according to Forbes, boasting an annual revenue of over £240 million. It is appalling that a club of their financial stature is using the government to pay their wages. They are the only Premier League club still participating in the furlough scheme, and look set to carry on until it ends in October.
What is more striking from a footballing point of view is that their European scout, Paul Baker, is currently furloughed, despite the club still going through a transfer window. Perhaps that is why all of their summer signings have been from English clubs.
The decision to furlough non-playing staff is just a measure of gaining back what little returns Ashley can on poor investments over the past few seasons. Tax-payers should not be funding Newcastle’s pursuit of another Joelinton.
All this comes despite the rumours that Mike Ashley pocketed £17 million from the failed Saudi takeover over the summer. Instead of investing a penny in the long-term future of the club, he more often than not opts to look after his own backside in the short-term. The training facilities remain abysmal for a club at this level.
The fact that a club the size of Newcastle is still abusing the furlough scheme makes a mockery of many smaller businesses in the north east. Ultimately the money, which could be put aside to help said businesses, is wasted on Mike Ashley, one of the UK’s 100 wealthiest people, worth an estimated £2bn.
‘Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed’. Newcastle’s – or rather Mike Ashley’s, as the club have become so darkened by his rule – decision to persist with the furlough scheme until its expiration is a sign of what the club has become over the past 14 years.
There is no longer the same affinity with the people that paid to watch the stars of yesteryear. Perhaps it points to a larger issue of football being a business before anything else, more so for Ashley than anyone else it seems. The late Sir Bobby Robson once said:
“What is a club in any case? Not the buildings or the directors or the people who are paid to represent it. It’s not the television contracts, get-out clauses, marketing departments or executive boxes. It’s the noise, the passion, the feeling of belonging, the pride in your city. It’s a small boy clambering up stadium steps for the very first time, gripping his father’s hand, gawping at that hallowed stretch of turf beneath him and, without being able to do a thing about it, falling in love.”
This is just more evidence that Newcastle is not a football club to Mike Ashley, just another one of his greedy business ventures.
Image: daniel0685 via Creative Commons