I’m often appalled by the lack of financial analysis from those reporting upon Newcastle United and whilst I don’t expect football journalists to be chartered accountants or financial experts, they should have it within their gift to get a set of accounts analysed by an expert and come to some conclusions about what is happening at our club. What’s that old saying? Follow The Money?
In recent years the most spectacular dereliction of responsibility when it comes to scrutinising the football business was in Glasgow where the scandal unfolding at Ibrox wasn’t identified by the full time, well-resourced and trained Scottish media but by a fan writing a Blog, the Rangers Tax Case. For anyone following the Rangers farrago it became essential reading but you have to ask the question, why the local media could not apply themselves to this as opposed to an unpaid football supporter? It really makes a mockery of claims the local press often makes about holding local institutions to account. Anyway, it was ever thus!
In our usual cock-eyed fashion, this gobshite fanzine has managed to draw some conclusions from the Newcastle United accounts over the last few years and with the usual Government Health Warnings attached to them, this is what we think is happening: Ashley is prioritising the reduction of his loan over investment in our club. Club money is being paid to Ashley and the debt is being reduced. Lack of investment in the first team squad is also mirrored in continued redundancies at United (Ian Horrocks, the official photographer for the last eighteen years was dismissed in the summer for example), as well as club merchandise now being kept in Sports Direct premises in Nottinghamshire after the club dispensed with its previous warehouse on the Team Valley in Gateshead. Costs are cut to the bone and it is a fair description the club is being run on a shoe-string.
One of our readers kindly used their skills as a Chartered Accountant to give this following analysis:
I’ve attached the latest accounts (June 2012). These are available from Companies House so available to the public and I’m not breaking any confidentiality issues.
He (Ashley) hasn’t taken any dividends or salary but if you look at page 24, Note 14, Ashley’s loan to the club was £140m at the end of the previous year (June 2011) but only £129m at 30 June 2012, so he took £11m back during the year to 30 June 2012. This is money that he’s loaned the club, so he’s entitled to take it back as the club owes him this money but is it taking it to the detriment of the playing squad? Does he really need this money?
In addition, it looks like the accountants have split the £129m out into £111m due more than 12 months and £18m due within twelve months. Whilst this is no guarantee that he will have taken £18m of his loan back in the year to 30 June 2013, it’s highly probable given he took £11m in the previous year and it “is secured on future broadcasting income and due for repayment within one year.” In my view, he has said Sky are paying the club this cash, I want some cash back from my loan. Again, he’s entitled to do this, the club owes him this money but does he need this and clearly he’s decided not to invest in the playing staff.
Whether he’s took or not for definite, we’ll see when the June 2013 accounts are published and it may be that the January 2013 expenditure on players meant that the club didn’t have the cash to pay him the £18m back in whole or part.
The Year to 30 June 2014 accounts should be very interesting given the very public knowledge of the increase in the Sky money and the lack of expenditure by the club in recent months.
Also, interesting on page 27 – Note 22 – advertising and promotional services were provided to companies associated with Ashley (SD?!). No consideration paid. So we are just a free advertisement for SD!
A call into the club by David Conn of The Guardian last week drew the reply that the £18m as detailed above had not gone out of the club. That can be achieved pretty quickly by pressing a few buttons so I’d be keen to revisit that over the next few weeks to see what’s happening there. It is Ashley’s plan to take out £18m – it says so in the books.
In my opinion you can take statements from the local press that there is “definitely” £20m to spend with a liberal dose of salt whilst Alan Pardew’s claim that the club does not sell to buy is risible and can be filed alongside “Andy Carroll is not for sale”. Pardew’s position at the club becomes more pathetic with each passing week.
Our man as above asks the question, does Ashley need the money back now? I’d say with his businesses reporting huge profits and pretty much dominating what remains of the post-2008 High Street, the answer to that question is definitely no. However, Ashley has no interest in Newcastle United beyond keeping us in the PL and on the broadcasting gravy train. There is no strategy for success and when the manager speaks of Newcastle United’s financial inferiority to Norwich, Swansea and Southampton I think you can pretty much see what is going on with Mike Ashley. I’ve been accused of negativity by some fellow Mags but my response is to question their grasp of the facts. I cannot have been the only one to recognise Ashley only becoming involved in transfer business this close season when it has come to selling Yohan Cabaye and I’d guess moving Kinnear out of the picture while he does the grown-up’s work.
On another point, Ashley’s company Sports Direct pays absolutely zip for the advertising that is plastered all over SJP but our research suggests that level of exposure in the most watched domestic league in the world is worth around £8m p.a.. That is revenue completely lost to the club but which is a massive asset to Mike Ashley and Sports Direct. We shouldn’t be surprised were we to learn Ashley is paid personally for this advertising.
There is a view I detect amongst supporters that when Ashley has recovered a certain amount of the loan, he’ll sell up for a decent price and we can start again. That’s something I think we want to happen but there is no guarantee of it and he holds all the cards. He could continue to rake money off Newcastle United forever and a day. We just don’t know.
What I do know is Newcastle United will never be successful with Mike Ashley at the helm of our club. He’s just not interested and that is abundantly clear from what is happening with the finances and his rare appearances at games. He just isn’t arsed, though if rumours I hear are correct he cares about as much for us as we do for him.
And from our current owner to our previous Chairman, Sir John Hall, would-be Father of the North and man of the people! I can’t have been alone in seeing pictures of this massive phony standing outside St James’ Park with a collection of dupes and shaking my head at the sheer, brazen hypocrisy of it all. The St James’ Park gates were established on Barrack Road in the mid-to-late 1980s by none other than Gordon McKeag’s board. They were ripped down by Sir John Hall’s board in the mid-90s and left in a field on Hall’s land at Woolsington Hall Farm under six foot of nettles for over a decade and more. By rough estimate Hall and Shepherd took at a conservative estimate £140m out of United over their time hogging the Barrack Road trough. Hall received £70m alone for his shares when he mugged Ashley into buying the club in 2007. At any time over the last twelve years Hall could have had those gates restored and fitted at SJP without blinking an eye. It was loose change for him. Instead we have the grotesque PR stunt for Wonga in returning the gates to a peculiar spot opening onto a brick wall (surely that’s a metaphor for our club – I wish I was clever enough to work out what it is) with Hall & Co. posing for photos as though they have returned the lost ark of the covenant and a fresh faced cherub (resplendent in the awful new Wonga sponsored shirt) smiling for the photos. It is fucking nauseous. Whatever happened to the real St James’ Park gates that Hall’s board took down at the Gallowgate End on Strawberry Place? I wonder what field Hall has them stashed in waiting for a publicity stunt to get them pinned up somewhere at SJP.
Not that this was the only bollocks in our fair and noble city last week as Wonga and Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah had some kind of face-off at the Lit & Phil in NE1. You will be unsurprised to learn that Wonga did not see the error of their ways or Chi Onwurah become a convert to online (cough) digital (clears throat) banking. What this event for media did achieve however was publicity for an MP and for Wonga who must be pissing their pants at how easy it is to hoodwink some divs in Newcastle into giving them more and more publicity. And the outcome of this event? Someone asks Wonga to donate some money for Citizens Advice for a Debt Worker. Jesus Christ, what next, Arsonists doing bucket collections for the Fire Service?
And it’s still only August!
Well, West Ham at home wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be given I was braced for the sight of Hippo-head jumping around the touchline celebrating another victory over the club that used to be Newcastle United. I agreed with some of Pardew’s post-match comments regards us looking more cohesive defensively and I thought Anita and Sissoko did well in the central midfield area, though we were vulnerable in central defence to a hopeful punt up front. Had a certain long-haired galloot from Gateshead been leading the West Ham attack, I think we’d definitely have lost this game because he’d have exploited that. Where I disagreed with Pardew was in his assessment of the players he has to come in back in – I was less frantic with worry about possession being squandered by Tiote and Guttierez’s creative edge leaves a lot to be desired. They won’t make the difference and frankly I’d leave Anita-Sissoko in there for the visit of Fulham this coming Saturday. Pardew’s compliments to the support is all very well but his comments regards the status of our club this summer has brought the grim, joyless reality of Mike Ashley’s Newcastle United to full clarity.
The nils apiece score-line means we have now gone four successive home games without scoring a single goal. If anyone wondered where the priorities were for any squad strengthening, simply look at that statistic. Getting strikers in has been the club’s priority since United sold Demba Ba to Chelsea in January and the sum total of lots of trips abroad, meetings, summits is Loic Remy (injured) on loan from QPR with the possibility of a Rape charge hanging over him. Seeing Shola Ameobi start a Premier League game is simply depressing. Shola’s time at United is well and truly beyond its sell-by date whilst I’m sorry but I just don’t rate Gouffran – he’s powder puff. That miss at the end of the game is amongst the worst I’ve ever seen at St James’ Park, I’m struggling to think of worse.
The need for striking reinforcements has been obvious for some time but other priorities are likely to be thrust upon us in the next week or so I’d imagine with the imminent departure of Yohan Cabaye for London or Paris. You’ve all seen how effective United has been in getting in strikers for the thick end of nine months so I’ll leave you to ponder upon how well they will do to get a replacement for Cabaye in over the next ten days. Brace yourself for the usual “didn’t have time to reinvest” bull-shit we’ve heard before. Let’s also be honest here as well, it’s been obvious Yohan has wanted to be away for some time now and I think last season was served at United under sufferance. Yes, it is appalling he is refusing to play for United right now (or so we are told in nods and winks) but let’s be honest, it wouldn’t be the first time players about to leave Newcastle United were pulled out of the line of fire because let’s make no attempt to disguise this – Mike Ashley wants £20m more than he wants Yohan Cabaye. He may want £15m more than he wants Cabaye.
This coming week we’ll make the trip to the North West for the League Cup tie with Morecambe and Alan Pardew can just fuck off thinking about adding another horror show to his lamentable Cup record at United. This will be a great opportunity for Pardew to give some United youngsters an opportunity to ….. I’ll stop there. We don’t have any available, they are all out on loan and such is the threadbare nature of our squad, I’ll be surprised if we can name a squad of twenty five to be honest this season and that’s just a head count with no quality control. We are likely to see Obertan (groan), Williamson (shudder) in the side so off we go with the smallest of squads as I imagine Mike Ashley lies stretched out on the sofa watching Top Gear on DAVE.
Then it will be Fulham on Saturday and that’s a game we have to win if Pardew’s plea to judge the side after that game doesn’t deliver a harsh sentence from the stands.
Keep your eyes peeled this week on this site as we are in the planning stages of kicking off the new true faith SATURDAY SPECIAL e-newsletter available free of charge to our readers and its something we hope will become a regular staple of our TF output and which you’ll hopefully build into your match-days/weekends etc. I know, exciting eh?
Have a great week.
Keep On, Keepin’ On …
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