Political Football #9

by • September 6, 2013 • Political footballComments (4)983

Austerity North East

We now have had some time to reflect on the fact Newcastle United spent a total of £350 Assembly000 on players during this summer’s close season. This is what Director of Football, Joe Kinnear stated on his arrival in June:

“I think Michael (Ashley) is a very generous owner and he’s one of the best owners in the business to work for. We’ll make money on certain players, but we will be getting finance to come in and take other players. If we spell it out to him that we need a quality striker, I’m sure he’ll pay”.

So what exactly is going on here? Is it just Joe Kinnear’s incompetence or is it just that because we never made any sales we were unable to buy any players. Or is something else completely going on…

According to the Daily Mail, Newcastle United made £46 million from various sources last season including television and prize money


There have also been stories about clubs getting £60m from Sky and other sources for this season. As mentioned before in this blog, Newcastle United had the third highest attendances in the Premier League last season at 50 517. This was the tenth highest in Europe. (http://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/Average_attendances_of_European_football_clubs) This is a club, which should be seriously challenging for the Champions League every season and indeed should then reach at least the last 16 of that competition.

Whatever the amount of money that was available and as Mike Ashley refuses to speak directly to fans it isn’t always easy to know, it is clear that there should have been enough for at least two significant buys. It is galling that we seem to be falling behind clubs such as Norwich City, Southampton and Cardiff City….


Club 2013 Summer spending Average league attendance 2012-3 League position 2012-3
Norwich City £26 475 000 26 671 11th
Southampton £36 000 000 30 873 14th
Cardiff City £32 250 000 22 998 1st (Championship)
Newcastle United £350 000 50 517 16th


Or to put it another way, in terms of spending per head of spectator given the average attendances, the spending this summer was as follows…….

Norwich City £993

Southampton £1 166

Cardiff City £1 402

Newcastle United £7

No disrespect is meant here  to any of the other clubs and their fans, but something is very wrong here…

Mike Ashley seems determined to conduct his own austerity programme. Only time will tell how successful it is, but given the failures of last season, it is a very risky strategy and one which shows a shocking lack of ambition in a club with the potential of Newcastle United.

Speaking of austerity, I watched a debate in the House of Commons on Thursday 5th September into the North East Independent Economic Review report. It was good to see that for once our region was a the centre of attention, although it seemed to be virtually only Northeast M.P.s who were present, except for the government minister David Willetts. New Labour were far too close to big business and too far from ordinary working people, but there were some very telling contributions from Northeast M.P.s, including a forceful speech from fellow Mag Ian Mearns, M.P. for Gateshead, on just how badly the region is suffering from unfair austerity policies.

The gist of what was said was that the report, led by Lord Adonis, contained some ideas as to how the region could go forward economically, without recommending that real power be devolved and the resources made available for those ways forward to be successfully pursued.  The inference from some speakers at the debate was that we were being given crumbs from the table, rather than being able to sit there by right.

Of course you too can have your say at the North East People’s Assembly on 14th September. So why should you attend?  Why should you try to challenge what the government are doing?

Well, here are some interesting statistics:

According to the Institute for Public Policy Research:

“In December 2011, IPPR North produced a report – On the wrong track (Cox and Schmuecker 2011) – which provided a critical analysis of the recently published National Infrastructure Plan (HM Treasury 2011) and its pipeline data. The headline findings of the report were:

  1. Of the 505 projects included in the pipeline, comprising £300 billion of public and private investment, 88 per cent of the investment which involved public sector spending was devoted to transport.
  2. Of that transport infrastructure spending where public funding is involved, there was a shocking disparity between London and the South East and the rest of the country. At the extremes, this equated to £2,731 per person in London and the South East compared to just £5 per person in the North East.
  3. Of the largest 81 transport projects, three-quarters of those in London and the South East had been confirmed and started, compared with just under half elsewhere.” (Ed Cox and Bill Davies, Still On the Wrong Track, IPPR North June 2013)

With figures like that, it is little wonder that London’s economy seems to be growing much faster than the North East’s. There is no way that we can fully develop as a region and our people can fully realise their potential if we have a second-rate transport system.  It is little wonder that North East England is still suffering desperate rates of unemployment.

The official website for the Houses of Parliament stated in mid –August that, “over the period March 2013 to May 2013, the North East had the highest unemployment rate, at 10.3% of the economically active population. The lowest rates over the same period were 6.0% in the South East and the South West.”


This is a dreadful situation for our region, which has never fully recovered from the ravages of Thatcherism in the 1980s. One has to ask, how would David Cameron or George Osborne feel if they were one of the unemployed, applying for job after job, facing rejection after rejection and consequently slipping further and further into debt and despair. No wonder then that it was reported on 3rd September that, Wonga’s profits were up by 36%. (itv.com)

Young people are particularly suffering from the Austerity policies. It is reported that, “973,000 young people aged 16-24 were unemployed in April to June 2013, up 15,000 on the previous quarter and down 38,000 on the previous year”. (ibid.) This would appear to show that while the situation is better than last year, things are getting worse again.  Surely more can be done to alleviate the despair and hopelessness so many young people across the country must be feeling right now.

Added to this, many of those in work across the country are struggling with low wages, some with zero-hours contracts and living in real poverty. Many hard-working families are finding times hard. Indeed the situation for children is, if anything even more desperate, than for young adults. The BBC highlighted in June that,

“at least one out of every six children in the UK lives in relative poverty, according to data released by the Department for Work and Pensions. In 2011-12, 2.3 million UK children (17%) lived in homes with substantially lower than average income.This rises to 27% (3.5 million) if measured after housing costs are paid.” If one considers that the Northeast is the least affluent region in Britain, with the highest unemployment rate, then we can safely assume that the percentage of children living in poverty in our region will be higher. Across Britain, how many hundreds of thousands of children are going to school so hungry that they cannot concentrate properly on their work? How many tens of thousands in North East England?

It seems clear that the tiny national economic recovery, with still less than 1% growth rate, has had little or no impact in our region. It is more a case of a house price bubble in London and the South East giving the impression of a recovery, whilst ordinary working people in the North East and indeed across the country, continue to suffer from falling living standards and in our region more than one in ten cannot find any job at all. What about public services?

Cuts in spending power, from 2011/12 to 2014/15, for councils such as Newcastle, Gateshead and South Tyneside will be between £200 and £400 per head of population. Councils in other less affluent areas, such as Liverpool and Bradford, will be hit as badly. By way of comparison, councils in much more affluent Surrey in places such as Guildford and Dorking, will be facing cuts of between £1 and £25 per head.

(http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/interactive/2012/nov/14/local-authority-cuts-map 11th January 2013)

This will impact very badly on the poorest and most vulnerable people in society. How much anguish and suffering will these policies cause? Why are the poorest being hardest hit?

Again, you have to think…something is very wrong here…What is happening is crystal clear. The poorest areas of the country, including our own North East are being deliberately targeted to be the hardest hit in the government’s Austerity policies. For the last 30 years the economy of our country has been run in a way which has most benefited the financial services sector based in London and the South East. We have seen the destruction of our traditional industrial base in the North East and many other areas of the country and now we are been hit hardest again by the government’s austerity policies.

There also appears to be a definite policy of undermining public services, so that the wealthiest members of society do not have to pay so much in taxes – those that pay any at all, given how many find convenient loopholes. This has been linked to a campaign to denigrate those on benefits; at a time when more than one-in-ten in our region are unemployed and many in work are still struggling badly to make ends meet.  And all the time, the bonuses for bankers continue to be astronomical……

We are living through times af austerity for many – and incredible wealth and privelege for a few. If there is anything which links the situation at Newcastle United with that in the country as a whole it is this: in both cases there is far too much wealth and power concentrated in the hands of far too few people. Surely things will never improve, either at Newcastle United or in Britain, especially in our own region, until this unfair situation changes.

It is time to speak truth to power, whether at our football club or with our government. It is time to say that we can’t go on like this. It is time for real change.

© Peter Sagar September 2013 TF_INITIALS_LOGO


And DON’T forget – North East People’s Assembly

The comedian Mark Steel will join the writer and journalist Owen Jones at the People’s Assembly at Northern Stage on Saturday 14th September. Please see information below:


Your invitation to join Owen Jones at North East People’s Assembly 2013

Registration is now open here: http://nepeoplesassembly.eventbrite.co.uk/

It will bring together opponents of austerity from a wide range of organisations and backgrounds across north-east England. It is a day for speeches, discussions and planning, with a mix of rallies, workshop sessions and cultural activities.






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4 Responses to Political Football #9

  1. Greeny's Guitar says:

    I agree with your last paragraph completely but I cannot see where such a change is possible at Westminster. I mean New Labour. Milliband and Balls. Fuck me man pink conservatives in the image of the Maggie diciple that was Blair. Can you give me a clue. Please.

  2. Bob Stead says:

    All very interesting and worrying but what can be done to change this. You mention the area hasn’t recovered from Thaterism but remember after that we had 13 years of Labour with a Prime Minister representing a constituency in the region and several cabinet ministers including Milburn, Milliband, Nick Brown and others but what did that do for us? we even had Prescott saying we needed a regional assembly to get our voice heard. If we coyuldn’t have that with many in the top jobs what chance did a regional assembly have. The inference is that because the Tories don’t have many MP’s in the region we get nowt but on the other hand because we vote Labour MP’s in, come what may, they don’t need to do much either as they have a safe seat. So what would real change look like?

  3. Alex says:

    Things won’t change, and with a £120 billion pound deficit still in place, things will get worse, say what you like about the tories, it was the same with New Labour, no investment in the region at all, 13 years of a Labour government and we still got nothing major in transport investment(Apart from the metro extension to the land of the damned and an upgrade which is restricted to the central part of the metro network which should have been carried out in the 90’s), no prospect at all of HS2 ever coming north (the dedicated line that is before someone cops me for that) and weand no prospect of the A1 ever being Dualled, something in an old journal article about HS2 summed things up perfectly for me, “If there’s nothing to be gained from spending scare resources north of leeds, they will be allocated elsewhere. A region taken for granted by one party and written off by the other is in the worst possible position, and that, is unfortunately us.”, up until the point where we get a party that will stand up for the region in parliament then nothing will change at all, either we get MP’s who care about the region or we start to think of other methods and means to get the region to where it should be in the world

  4. Tony Dowling says:

    I understand the pessimism of those commenting above, but it remains the case that the viciousness of the Tories’ attacks was, is & always will be far worse than anything Labour (New or otherwise) will deliver. It is therefore crucial that in the first instance we get rid of the Tory-led coalition. And I don’t just mean waiting for an election – I mean forcing them out by means of extra-parliamentary actions like protests & strikes. That is why building the People’s Assemblies is important because it is a means by which we can unite ALL those who want to get rid of the Tories. And if we can do THAT, then there would be the real basis for building something new.