In an article in The Guardian at the weekend, Louise Taylor has mused upon why no new owner for Newcastle United has come along in the four and a half years since Mike Ashley first expressed an interest in selling the club. Taylor claims, with some justification that United are the most attractive proposition to any potential buyer into the Premier League. With a regular crowd of over 50 000 and the club firmly entrenched in the top 20 reichest in the world, you wopuld expect more interest. As Taylor herself puts it:
“Newcastle, then, should be top of any self-respecting billionaire’s shopping list. But if someone really is serious about buying Ashley out the overwhelming likelihood is that – as happened with Manchester City – no media outlet would have an inkling of anything happening until the formal, bombshell, announcement. Clues will not be scattered and advance warnings should not be expected. Maybe that is what will happen at St James’. We will wake one morning to an early club statement and later discover that, unnoticed, a delegation representing the new owner flew into Newcastle airport on a private jet from Russia or the United States. Or perhaps on the daily Emirates service from Dubai, possibly having connected from elsewhere in the Middle East, east Asia or the Indian subcontinent.”
So if Ashley really does want to sell up, then why is it taking so long for a new owner to be found? Only he knows and given his reluctance to communicate, we will probably never know. It has been mooted that Newcastle is too far north and outside the 21st century footballing hotbeds of London and the Northwest. Possibly Newcastle still suffers from an outdated image problem or perhaps the albatross round the neck of 44 years without a major trophy and 58 without a major domestic honour are too off-putting. Or maybe it is a mixture of all these.
Whatever the reasons, things do change and perhaps it won’t be long before a new, vastly wealthy owner comes to Newcastle. We shall see. Whatever happens, and I am aware that I am writing this in the wake of three victories, which have put Newcastle United firmly into the top half of the Premier League, I hope any new owners are more enlightened and ethical than Mr Ashley.
Speaking of people coming to Tyneside, I have just finished a book, investigating why Roma have come to Newcastle and Gateshead over the last 15 years and how they have found the Toon. The reasons for them coming are clear; despite the huge loss of Roma life in the Holocaust or Porrajmos (devouring) as the Roma call it, there is still a huge amount of discrimination against Roma throughout wide swathes of Eastern Europe. Roma children are often put into ‘elementary schools’ without good reason, so receiving a very limited curriculum, greatly harming their job and life chances in the future. They are also vulnerable to house evictions, which have seen them evicted and put in sub-standard housing, often in awful places. For example in Belgrade, Roma were evicted from their homes, and forced to live in metal containers, the kind you usually find on large container ships, next to a sewage treatment plant. An appalling way to treat fellow humans. They are also seriously discriminated against in health provision and the jobs market.
The interviews with Roma living in Newcastle and Gateshead have been very interesting. As well as talking about the discrimination they faced in places such as the Czech Republic, confirmed by my own visit to the Roma ghetto of Chanov in Most, 48 miles northwest of Prague, they have also talked about their experiences on Tyneside. It seems clear that they genuinely want to work: indeed English language classes in Newcastle are almost full of Roma, so that they get employment and so many have worked as cleaners, that it sometimes seemed like all the cleaners in Newcastle were Roma! Some have had to endure disgraceful racism, including a racist bus driver and doctor’s receptionist. However, the majority of comments have been how friendly, warm and non-racist people in Newcastle and Gateshead are. One even commented that Newcastle is less racist than Liverpool – and Geordie is easier to understand than Scouse! It has been very heartening to see that our traditions of tolerance, warmth and honouring the stranger, which have underpinned Tyneside community life for generations, are still very much alive and well.
The book on the Roma in Newcastle and Gateshead can be read at www.alivingtradition.org > Roma .
Community concerns bring me round to the final thing; a couple of pieces of news from the People’s Asssembly. If you can sign the petition for trade union rights, at a time when zero hours contracts and other abuses are rife, and as austerity policies continue to bite the most vulnerable in society, then it is an important petition to sign.
© Peter Sagar November 2013
1. Peoples Assembly North East Organising Meeting
Can you help us organise campaigns and activities in the coming weeks and months?
The North East People’s Assembly’s next co-ordinating group meeting, scheduled for 3 December, is being opened up to People’s Assembly supporters who want to get more involved.
Peoples Assembly North East Organising Meeting
Tuesday 3rd December, 5pm
Unison Northern Regional Offices
140 – 150 Pilgrim Street,
Newcastle NE1 6TH
Facebook event page here: https://www.facebook.com/events/635181446533508/?source=1
2. HANDS OFF OUR UNIONS – Defend the Right to Resist
Great letter in the Guardian defending union rights, please add your signature at the People’s Assembly website here: www.thepeoplesassembly.org.uk
Hands off our Unions
Defend the right to resist