Newcastle United Improve Their Finances, But Will Fans Ever Take to Owner Mike Ashley?
Having enjoyed a fantastic season on the pitch, Newcastle United fans have more reason to be optimistic after the club announced a vast improvement of their finances today.
The Magpies revealed figures for the financial year ending 30 June 2011, with the club announcing they were functioning at a hugely improved operating loss of £3.9m. Twelve months prior the club’s balance sheet showed they lost £33.5m, a slight improvement on the £37.7m loss published the year before.
With the club now operating at almost break-even, Newcastle also revealed they are now rid of any third party debt. Despite this the club still carries debt in the form of a £140m interest free loan to owner Mike Ashley, something that shouldn’t be overlooked when reviewing these figures.
But, today’s announcement is evidence of the progression made under Ashley. Newcastle has been guilty of over-spending on lavish stars in the past with little reward, undoubtedly contributing to the club’s debt from previous seasons.
The current regime’s transfer policy has been of benefit to the club both on and off the pitch. The captures of young, affordable talent coupled with the astute signings of players like Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse has allowed the club to flourish in all departments. Ashley showed in the January window he is willing to fund manager Alan Pardew, but he stands firm on not spending excessively and his methods are proving successful.
It takes a brave Newcastle fan to back Ashley given some of his questionable decisions since buying the club in 2007, but is the tide slowly turning? Where there was once severe hatred towards his so-called ‘Cockney Mafia’, supporters may now be tempted to adjust their views given their club’s on and off-field standings.
It’s doubtful Ashley, along with Managing Director Derek Llambias, will ever gain solemn trust of the supporters though. Their habit of upsetting and misleading fans is what prevents people from backing their regime, with the renaming of St James’ Park the most recent decision to cause uproar on Tyneside.
From a business viewpoint if the club sold the naming rights to an external party for financial gain then it could be contemplated. But, all it seems Ashley has done is rename the stadium to benefit his own business ventures, something that was never going to sit well with the Geordie public.
The sacking of Chris Hughton only months after he guided the Magpies to the Championship title was an unfavourable move. However, given the performances following Alan Pardew’s appointment, it’s difficult to criticize no matter how unfair Hughton’s dismissal was.
Appointing Dennis Wise in 2008 still leaves a bitter taste. Four years on and it’s a decision that nobody can justify. The angst fans have towards Ashley stems from these moments of unexplainable madness, and their argument is ‘who’s to say he won’t do it again?’ A question that unfortunately cannot be answered.
However, it can be argued that the club is in a vastly stronger position than it was when Ashley first took up the reigns at St James’ Park. The most honest of Magpies supporters will admit that, but there’s too much history between owner and fans for them all to get on side.
For all that’s gone on, the most important thing for a fan is the security of their club – something Newcastle now has in abundance. Financially sound and fighting for Europe, everybody associated with the Magpies deserves praise for the positive strides the club is making.
Newcastle are a great example of how you can run a business without jeopardising the team’s chances of success. This time next season the club could realistically announce they are no longer operating at a loss, something few of their possible European opponents can boast.