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Mike Ashley Got the Message

After a week of protest and criticism from fans and neutrals alike, myself included, current Newcastle owner Mike Ashley finally got the message: he’s not wanted anymore.

Here’s the complete transcript of the statement he made earlier today:

I have enjoyed sport since I was a boy. I love football. I have followed England in every tournament since Mexico ‘86. I was there to see Maradona and his hand of God.

I know what it means to love football and to love a club. I know how important it is to other people because football is so important to me.

My life has been tied up with sport. It was the passion that I felt for sport that helped me to be successful with my business. That success allowed me to mix my passion and my business.

I bought Newcastle United in May 2007. Newcastle attracted me because everyone in England knows that it has the best fans in football. When the fans are behind the club at St. James’ Park, it makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. It is magic.

Newcastle’s best asset has been, is and always will be the fans.

But like any business with assets the club has debts. I paid £134 million out of my own pocket for the club. I then poured another £110 million into the club not to pay off the debt, but just to reduce it.

The club is still in debt. Even worse than that, the club still owes millions of pounds in transfer fees.

I shall be paying out many more millions over the coming year to pay for players bought by the club before I arrived.

But there was a double whammy. Commercial deals such as sponsorships and advertising had been front loaded.

The money had been paid up front and spent. I was left with a club that owed millions and part of whose future had been mortgaged.

Unless I had come into the club then it might not have survived. It could have shared the fate of other clubs who have borrowed too heavily against their future. Before I had spent a penny on wages or buying players Newcastle United had cost me more than a quarter of a billion pounds.

Don’t get me wrong. I did not buy Newcastle to make money. I bought Newcastle because I love football.

Newcastle does not generate the income of a Manchester United or a Real Madrid. I am Mike Ashley, not Mike Ashley a multi-billionaire with unlimited resources. Newcastle United and I can’t do what other clubs can. We can’t afford it.

I knew that the club would cost me money every year after I had bought it. I have backed the club with money.

You can see that from the fact that Newcastle has the fifth highest wage bill in the Premier League.

I was always prepared to bank roll Newcastle up to the tune of £20 million per year but no more. That was my bargain.

I would make the club solvent. I would make it a going concern. I would pour up to £20million a year into the club and not expect anything back.

It has to be realised that if I put £100 million into the club year-in, year-out, then it would not be too long before I was cleaned out and a debt-ridden Newcastle United would find itself in the position that faced Leeds United.

That is the nightmare for every fan. To love a club that over-extends itself, that tries to spend what it can’t afford.

That will never happen to Newcastle when I am in charge. The truth is that Newcastle could not sustain buying the Shevchenkos, Robinhos or the Berbatovs.

These are recognised European footballers. They have played in the European leagues and everyone knows about them.

They can be brilliant signings. But everybody knows that they are brilliant and so they, and players like them, cost more than £30 million to buy before you even take into account agent commissions and the multi-million pound wage deals.

My plan and my strategy for Newcastle is different. It has to be.

Arsenal is the shining example in England of a sustainable business model. It takes time. It can’t be done overnight.

Newcastle has therefore set up an extensive scouting system. We look for young players, for players in foreign leagues who everyone does not know about. We try and stay ahead of the competition. We search high and low looking for value, for potential that we can bring on and for players who will allow Newcastle to compete at the very highest level but who don’t cost the earth.

I am prepared to back large signings for millions of pounds but for a player who is young and has their career in front of them and not for established players at the other end of their careers.

There is no other workable way forward for Newcastle. It is in this regard that Dennis [Wise] and his team have done a first class job in scouting for talent to secure the future of the club.

You only need to look at some of our signings to see that it is working, slowly working.

Look at Jonas Guttierrez (sic) and Fabricio Collocini (sic). These are world class players.

The plan is showing dividends with the signing of exceptional young talent such as Sebastein (sic) Bassong, Danny Guthrie and Xisco.

My investment in the club has extended to time, effort and yet again, money being poured into the Academy.

I want Newcastle to be able to create its own legends of the future to rival those of the past. This is a long-term plan. A long-term plan for the future of the club so that it can flourish.

One person alone can’t manage a Premiership football club and scout the world looking for world class players and stars of the future. It needs a structure and it needs people who are dedicated to that task. It needs all members of the management team to share that vision for it to work.

Also one of the reasons that the club was so in debt when I took over was due to transfer dealings caused by managers moving in and out of the club.

Every time there was a change in manager, millions would be spent on new players and millions would be lost as players were sold. It can’t keep on working like that. It is just madness.

I have put Newcastle on a sound financial footing. It is reducing its debt. It is spending within itself. It is recruiting exciting new players and bringing in players for the future.

The fans want this process to happen more quickly and they want huge amounts spent in the transfer market so that the club can compete at the top table of European football now.

I am not stupid and have listened to the fans. I have really loved taking my kids to the games, being next to them and all the fans. But I am now a dad who can’t take his kids to a football game on a Saturday because I am advised that we would be assaulted.

Therefore, I am no longer prepared to subsidise Newcastle United. 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.

This will not be a fire sale. Newcastle is now in a much stronger position than it was in 2007. It is planning for the future and it is sustainable.

I am still a fan of Newcastle United. We, my kids and I, have loved standing on the terraces with the fans, we have loved travelling with the away fans and we have met so many fans whose company we have enjoyed. We have absolutely loved it, but it is not safe any more for us as a family.

I am very conscious of the responsibility that I bear in owning Newcastle United. Tough decisions have to be made in business and I will not shy away from doing what I consider to be in the best interests of the club. This is not fantasy football.

I don’t want anyone to read my words and think that any of this is an attack on Kevin Keegan. It is not.

Kevin and I always got on. Everyone at the club, and I mean everyone, thinks that he has few equals in getting the best out of the players. He is a legend at the club and rightly so.

Clearly there are disagreements between Kevin and the board and we have both put that in the hands of our lawyers.

I hope that all the fans get to read this statement so that they understand what I am about. I would not expect all of the fans to agree with me.

But I have set out, clearly, my plan. If I can’t sell the club to someone who will give the fans what they want, then I shall continue to ensure that Newcastle is run on a business and football model that is sustainable.

I care too much about the club merely to abandon it.

I have the interests of Newcastle United at heart. I have listened to you. You want me out. That is what I am now trying to do, but it won’t happen overnight and it may not happen at all if a buyer does not come in.

You don’t need to demonstrate against me again because I have got the message.

Any further action will only have an adverse effect on the team. As fans of Newcastle United you need to spend your energy getting behind, not me, but the players who need your support.

I am determined that Newcastle United is not only here today, but that it is also there tomorrow for your children who stand beside you at St. James’ Park.

Mike Ashley.

Sunday 14th September 2008

I can’t say I feel sorry for Ashley at all, although to be fair, I don’t think he’s asking for any kind of pity. I commend him for writing this letter; he didn’t have to do it and he doesn’t owe Newcastle’s fans any explanation if he wants to sell the club — that’s his prerogative.

His absence will benefit Newcastle, even if the new owner doesn’t have as much money to spend as Ashley does. Ashley is incompetent in his position. Just because he loves soccer doesn’t mean he should be running a club like Newcastle, or any other club, for that matter.

Once the fans turned against him, it was going to be near-impossible to bring them back on his side. Ashley has little choice but to sell the club now, which will surely devalue the return he’s going to get from any potential suitor.

Mike Ashley, the moron, will not be missed.

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  1. Lonnie

    September 15, 2008 at 10:32 pm

    This is what the Premier League has come to…either empty your pockets at the door or the “fans” turn on you. You hear Manchester City and Chelsea being talked about as if they can draw on the total net worth of their ownership group…it's just stupid. Neither set of owners is going to pour money into something that cannot sustain itself in the long run. If Chelsea continue to hemorrage cash how long before Roman pulls up stakes?

    I can't see who would buy the club or want to manage Newcastle. The fans expectations for Newcastle are unreal. They've not let a single competent manager settle into the job there since Robson had a bit of a run. And they are not alone in that mentality. Clubs like Arsenal and now Middlesbrough (who are admittedly copying the Arsenal model) are sensible clubs that spend within their means. Sunderland has spent something close to 50m just to stay in the league….it's really insane!

    No one has learned a thing from the Leeds fiasco of a few years ago I guess.

  2. Michael

    September 15, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    Ace, I would agree with you on your serious comment there (and your humorous one too!). Ashley didn't have to do this, as I said, and I thought he showed some character by stepping up and explaining this decision. It doesn't make me think any more of him as an owner — I think he's incompetent — but I do respect him now more than I did.

  3. AceCowboy

    September 15, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    If I were a Newcastle supporter, I'd print out that letter, put it in a blender, pour it into a cup of beer and chug it in the stands. Ashley Style.

    (On the serious, I think it was an extremely well-worded and reasoned letter to the people who have probably made disproportionately ridiculous threats on his person.)

  4. Simon Burke.

    September 15, 2008 at 6:26 am

    I dont know, Newcastle has been a shambles of a club long before Ashley and used to pay some shocking fees for players, Luque at nearly 10 million, Owen at 16 when liverpool were only bidding 8-12 mill. Ashley bought the club with his own cash, its not like anyone actually came in and bought them. Up until this I thought he was a fool but the statement I think is something football fans should rad and understand. Not everyone ca nthrow 30 million at a player and to do so on top of the the wage demands would ruin a club. He doesnt say he wanted to turn them into Arsenal overnight but that was the model he was aiming for – Wenger has been there for years doing it and fans want instant success. Newcastle havent won anything in years other than the sack race, a lot so I dont see why their fans think they are entitled to anything that quickly. Ashley is selling so the fans got what they want but he may have left them better off than they were. By the way ask City fans about Keegan's great signings he made for them. I like Keegan but they were shocking and if its true he wanted Henry and other over the hill high price talents then where was the money coming from. Remember its Ashley's money, not yours. Its easy to spend other people's money.
    The more billionaires that come to the league the harder it will get to turn daft money into success. Pressure and expectations will go up but there will still be 20 teams fighting for one title and 19 people who didnt win it.
    This is the first time I have looked at Ashley with any sympathy and lets be honest it probably wasnt safe for his family to go to a game. Lovely.

  5. The Gaffer

    September 15, 2008 at 5:04 am

    My question for Mike Ashley would be why would he bother buying the club in the first place? Why not let somebody else buy it when he showed interest knowing that a different investor may have been able to pour in a lot more money?

    Sure, United are/were a shamble but for Ashley to think that he could have turned the club into an Arsenal is ridiculous. To me, saying that he wanted to turn the club into an Arsenal is an excuse that he didn't want to invest even more massive sums of money.

    The Gaffer

  6. artist formerly Alex Hleb

    September 14, 2008 at 11:18 pm

    ashley has made some strong points. i agree with him on all of them. you cant spend alot of money when you owe alot of money. its important to pay off those debts and set up a sustainable yearly budget in order to insure a stable business model. mike ashley has done that. he has kept newcastle united from tanking out of the premier league and he has began to build the team for the future. its important to look away from the likes of chelski and manure. those clubs have massive debts which they keep increasing by spending outrageous sums of money every transfer window. they have the highest pay rolls and the oldest average ages for starting 11's. they have very little youth coming through the ranks. to set up a good business model in the premier league, one that insure a club to be able to sustain itself without any constant investment, arsenal is a good example. under arsene wenger, we have been able to be virtually debtless until we built our new stadium. with our consice transfer and wage policy we have been able to consistently pay off the debt from the building of our stadium and are now one of the richest clubs in europe. by managing our budget with precision, we are able to sustain ourselves without asking any of our board members for investments. the team stays competitive year in and year out with good scouting and a strong tradition of raising young players into world class players that put the interests of the team first, not to mention also having the will to play fast paced attacking football. its in the tradition of our club to insure us fans of a product that will always play world-class football whether it is now or in the future.

    so, mike ashley has very good points. i dont understand why everyone is so against him. fans rail on him for drinking at the place that he owns, ask for change, then are angry when he makes a change by firing kevin keegan, and then when he takes a trip to new york to blow off the major stresses at home, the fans want to take his head. he was always in a lose-lose situation. he had a business policy in place and if kevin keegan didnt agree with it by wanting to spend money, then it was a reasonable firing. for a business to be successful there has to be a shared philosophy throughout the company. its perfectly reasonable that ashley wanted to find someone that was willing to give the club time to develop. maybe he was looking for someone that had a better knowledge of bringing in youth and working with foreign players. i dont think its right that a fan should be afraid of being assualted by his fellow fans. this whole situation is lose lose for everyone.

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