Newcastle United has reportedly signed a deal with The Sun newspaper to become the club’s exclusive national media partner, according to a reporter with The Telegraph.

A spokesperson for The Sun newspaper says that “There is absolutely no current deal between The Sun and Newcastle United.” However, he adds that “As part of ongoing efforts to expand our commercial partnerships, The Sun is in regular talks with businesses in a variety of areas, including Sports Direct.

The Sun is not involved in any discussions that would give it exclusive access to a football club, or prevent other media outlets from having access. Nor is it considering any agreement that would compromise its editorial freedoms or independence.”

In response to the above photo of a positive article about Mike Ashley that The Sun published last week, the spokesperson added, “The piece on Mike Ashley was written by our City Editor, Simon English – a long-standing admirer of Ashley’s business dealings, who wasn’t even aware that talks had taken place between our commercial team and Sports Direct.”

Under owner Mike Ashley, Newcastle continues to push the limits of ridiculousness. Whether it was the shirt sponsorship deal with Wonga, the long-term Alan Pardew contract, the rehiring of Joe Kinnear as Director of Football, the renaming of St James Park or Ashley’s own enigmatic behavior, the Magpies have become the Premier League version of a freak show. However, if the published reports are to be believed, Ashley has pushed the club to a new level of ridiculousness.

As the Ashley regime continues to peel away the last shreds of Newcastle United’s dignity, the club begins a preseason tour of Australia and New Zealand next week. Ironically this tour coincides with the launch of Sports Direct in both countries. Ashley made his money via Sports Direct and also served as a whistleblower in the apparel industry by accusing other distributors of price-fixing. This led to his long-running and public feud with Wigan Athletic owner Dave Whelan.

Fans of Newcastle United have been long fed up with Ashley. Not only has the owner made unconventional hires, but he has systematically turned the club from merely underachiever to embarrassing laughing stock. The process that began when Ashley chugged a pint of beer in full view of TV cameras in 2008 at the Emirates has culminated in this deal with the newspaper.

If true, has such a deal ever been consummated in this history of English football? Exclusive media partnerships are extremely rare in the world of sports. They are usually reserved for trade shows and other public multi-day events. The idea of a major sporting institution that relies on dozens of media outlets to cover it properly picking and choosing one over another is poor form from the standpoint of journalistic integrity.

The continued desire of Mike Ashley to squeeze every penny out of Newcastle United is further marginalizing the club and alienating its supporters. While Ashley continues as owner, little can be done to save the club’s reputation it seems. But the hope among many Geordies is that the levels of embarrassment become so great and the pressure on Ashley from supporters so unbearable that he chooses to sell the club sooner rather than later.

Last November, the club banned a local newspaper from the stadium because the paper ran a story about Newcastle fans protesting against the club.