THRU BLACK & WHITE EYES – A Bad Hand – 8/Sep/13

by • September 8, 2013 • TBAWEComments (25)1936

To no-one’s great surprise but most people’s despair, Newcastle United did not make a Kinnear7single permanent signing over the summer transfer window. Despite a windfall of £60m in new TV money and continued promises from Pardew and Kinnear about the need and intention to buy new players, no recruits were made. This for a club that finished fifth bottom of the Premier League last season and which is amongst the ten best supported clubs in Europe, has the third best attendances in England and is the twentieth most wealthy in European football. It is appalling.

In the last week, Joe Kinnear has completely disappeared and his cowardly vanishing act speaks volumes of his character whilst the club’s inertia over the summer illustrates his incompetence and/or mendacity. A fool or a knave? I’ll let you decide.

As for Pardew, whilst we all appreciate things must be difficult for him, as Ashley’s public-facing patsy and the only person at the club who matters with any continued dialogue with media and vis-a-vis supporters, what remained of his stock collapsed last week. That statement on the official site under his name expressing satisfaction with the club’s playing staff, simply defies belief. It is an insult to the intelligence of all of us cursed to follow this circus of a football club. It has likely diminished his standing with his own players too.

So, where do we go from here? The frustration and anger at what is happening at United is tangible. Many have decided to walk away from a club they continue to love (and I have no case to persuade them otherwise) whilst others are planning exit strategies and ending Direct Debits and all the rest of it. The atmosphere amongst supporters, real ones, long-standing ones is bitter. All of that is completely understandable. I feel exactly the same way.

I really don’t think the morale of our support can continue with the sheer joylessness and lack of ambition provided by Mike Ashley’s running of Newcastle United. I don’t think anger is the real risk now, its despair, alienation and apathy.

So, what should be done?

Last week, we had news that the “leaders” of un-named “supporters groups” were meeting to plot action. Naturally, The Chronicle has gone large with it, though with its characteristic lack of scrutiny and the plan it seems is for a protest march to St James’ Park ahead of the Liverpool game.

So, the big plan is to walk together to the match, possibly carrying a few dodgy flags, shouting a few choice things about the man who “owns” our club and then go into SJP where there will be no protest at all.

That will show him. He’ll sell up immediately and do the off pronto after that. Why didn’t we think of this before? Honestly, I apologise for the sarcasm and I share the feelings about what is going down at our club but really, the people behind this need to think again as they are at serious risk of making us look like fools. Again!

Mike Ashley is completely impervious to influence from the likes of us. He might not appreciate the abuse and from what I hear he is rather a sensitive soul under the bluff exterior but a few hundred well-meaning people walking together through NE1 will achieve the sum total of zip. If you think any different, you are deluding yourself.

The only people who benefit from this are the media. I have absolutely no doubt, the local press will cover every step of the way (whilst failing to provide any kind of investigative and professional analysis of how the club is run) and middle-class, Scenty Bottle types from the BBC and ITV (all wearing pointy-shoes) will be around and about targeting the densest person they can find to ask questions of and who they will be secretly sneering at. I suspect, the usual suspects will be running after journalists and TV cameras desperate for another sad five minutes of fame. This will provide a pointless media event from which absolutely nothing positive will come. The grown-up amongst us will cringe. This is what happens.

Others will talk about boycotts of matches and I’ve heard the Leeds LC game mentioned.

Boycotts have some merit in certain situations but this isn’t one of them.

For a boycott campaign to work, we need it to be allied to a potential buyer who we believe in. A boycott needs to be aligned to a potential sale of the club. We need a buyer to show his/her hand and to engage with supporters ahead of a bid for the club. Without that, it isn’t a boycott at all – you are just not going to the match.

If I’d decided not to go to the match because I strongly objected to how Newcastle United was run, I don’t think Westwood, Seymour, McKeag, Hall, Shepherd and now Ashley would have ever seen my custom over the last forty years. All of those directors have failed to run Newcastle United correctly and all of them had the wrong motives. Ashley is probably the worst, though he’ll be doing well to take as much out of Newcastle United as Hall and Shepherd did.

So, what can we do? The truth is very little at this moment in time. That’s not defeatism, it is simple fact. Our collective financial power over those running the club has been diluted because of the budget from TV going into NUFC which dwarves our season ticket and other ticket money. That’s not to say we put in inconsequential amounts of money – we do – but any half-baked boycott, that would definitely not attract mass support, would barely register with Ashley looking at the NUFC budget lines.

We also need a vision of how we want our club to be run. My personal view is of a model where supporters have real structured and intelligent power in the boardroom, where there is transparency, accountability and the club embodies a certain set of principles which unite Newcastle United stakeholders rather than divide and alienate us.

If you share that vision then you should be signed up to the Newcastle United Supporters Trust, who remain the only members-based organisation amongst our support that has elected officials, proper standing orders about how it conducts its business and which is plugged in to a wider network of professionalism provided by Supporters Direct and the Football Supporters Federation. That isn’t a slavish plug for NUST, I have certain criticisms too, but really, when people are talking about the ownership of Newcastle United FC, NUST is essential in providing something of what the future should look like rather than shouting and bawling and endless media stunts that go nowhere.

It’s my fervent belief that the battle for what is going on at Newcastle United is part of a much wider context. Ticket-prices, accountability, financial fair play and all the rest of it need to be understood as football-wide issues and not just in a one club perspective as we are experiencing at United. Portsmouth, Rangers, Leeds, Coventry, Hearts and many others have all gone through owner-problems as we are currently to varying degrees of anguish.

That’s not to say there shouldn’t be protest at United but it has to have a single message and purpose. The local press branding it as a means to remove Ashley or attract a buyer has killed a Protest march dead in the water because that is a wildly over-ambitious objective. Who knows, whose fault that is, The Chronicle doesn’t help in these situations, I do know but the organisers have gone off half-cock I’m afraid.

The game needs to be changed so the likes of Ashley and his ilk cannot behave in the way they do. If you think you can have all your dreams come true by walking up Barrack Road shouting your head off, then off you go, good luck, I’m sure it will make you feel better. But then think about what comes next.

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It was gratifying last week to see Luke Edwards (The Telegraph) and Simon Bird (The Mirror) pick up on the club accounts which we’ve had online here for some weeks now as well as detail the money Ashley has taken out of United and which he has plans to again. For the avoidance of doubt, Ashley took £11m out of United in the period ending June 12 and has a further £18m ear-marked to come out in the period ending June 13, though we are informed this hasn’t happened yet and I’ll leave it to you to choose whether you believe that or not as I have no evidence either way. In January 14, we’ll discover how much Ashley intends to take out in the current year. Given the extra money coming into United from TV, no money spent on transfers, redundancies at NUFC and a reduced payroll, I’d imagine we’d be looking at something north of £20m. This is all my speculation of course.

Add to that lolly the benefits to Sports Direct of having their logo plastered all over SJP (which we estimate is worth £8m per season) and the reports that the Sports Direct PLC board may even pay Ashley for organising this media exposure and the need for intense scrutiny of Newcastle United’s accounts is obvious.

There are parts of the Newcastle United business that need a trained eye focused upon them and one of them is the club’s merchandising. Where the money is going out of the club shops has become a vexed question of late but so is the operation of NUFC Direct, the online merchandising arm of Newcastle United – an operation ran from Nottingham and wholly owned by Sports Direct. We are trying in our shambolic fanzine manner to work out what this means but really, this is crying out for trained journalists to conduct some investigations into what is and isn’t going down at United.

Those who work for national, independent newspapers with colleagues working in business and finance should really be offering us more.

As I’m fond of reminding people, the expose of the tax shenanigans at Rangers FC didn’t come from the proper Glasgow media, it came from a football fan, working alone in the spare room, who commented in-depth upon the Ibrox miasma (Rangers Tax Case) and which the proper media, the people who draw a salary, constantly raided to form copy.

As for the local press, quite simply, I despair of their complete lack of professional capacity to shine a light beyond anything other than knacked knees, blatant club PR and transfer tittle-tattle.

Indeed, only a day after the closed transfer window had left the properly washed parts of the NE seething, they were trotting out crap about January transfer targets, how players due to go out on loan to lower division clubs only a week earlier, were now going to show their worth and all the rest of the drivel that passes for coverage of Newcastle United. I have the impression, Mark Douglas (The Journal) would at least like to try and have a go at this but whether or not those higher up the food chain shit their strides at some proper journalistic coverage of the North East’s largest club and source of news and sales, remains to be seen.

The provincial press’ circulation continues to decline and those on the inside mourn a loss of the facility to hold local institutions to account, which is fine in theory but when was the last time they actually did so? They are letting their public down very badly as things stand.

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So then Steve Harper will have his testimonial at SJP. Thank God it won’t be against one of the Old Firm who would stink the city out. An all-star Milan side will turn out and whilst they are all old men now, they still carry some star dust to sprinkle around St James’ Park. Hopefully, some good causes will benefit.

*

We’ll have our second away trip of the season this weekend when we travel to Vile Park for the first game since the transfer window closed. I expect there will be loud abuse of Joe Kinnear and Mike Ashley and possibly Alan Pardew for his part in the bull-shitting on Barrack Road. I thought we were way the better side over an unambitious Fulham last week but it remains to be seen how we’ll do against a Paul Lambert side which I expect will be a major improvement on last season.

Where Yohan Cabaye will fit in the manager’s plans is open to speculation too. For me, I felt the “strike” scenario presented to us did Cabaye no favours given I imagine Ashley wanted £20m from whoever and it certainly suited those motives to have him missing games and protected from the possibilities of injury. I think United wanted to sell him and he wanted to go. I’ve heard nothing about any club fines imposed, so it seems hardly something that caused consternation behind the scenes at United. Cynical? Who wouldn’t be?

I have no time for Cabaye to be honest. To take part in a strike, real or phoney was unacceptable but I’m not about to be calling for him to be left to rot in the stiffs or booed or whatever. I want to see him in the side and playing well, contributing and earning his outrageous salary. Just don’t expect me to admire or cheer him for his talent. He’s a mercenary, like so many others. He’s a hired hand. Let him earn his money for us and if he goes, he goes. He means fuck all to us.

A point at Villa would be a great result.

Have a great week.

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25 Responses to THRU BLACK & WHITE EYES – A Bad Hand – 8/Sep/13

  1. Bob Stead says:

    agree with all of that. However, support for protests over the years has been weak at best. You have mentioned numerous times about the new shirts and I thought that they would have a little difficulty selling these but it appears not. So much written and said about the sponser, none of it good and yet the shirts still fly off the shelf. Coupled with the name of the sponsor and the reference to Ashley’s company on the till receipt surely “old” shirts serve just as well. I would have thought that calls to boycott pies and drinks pre match and at half time would have worked, especially at the prices they charge, but no, there are still queues!. Surely we can last a couple of hours without a pie or a pint. Call in at Greggs (other bakers are available) on the way to the match if the need is so desperate. So they don’t work even for what I would think fans would regard as worthwhile protests, albeit small. Although it goes against the “support the team not the regime” stance I would agree to a match boycott but it would have to be a non PL game to have a financial effect as season tickets holders have already paid. But with our experience in the cups both with performances and home draws I wouldn’t envisage many opportunities. To work, any protest would have to be very well co-ordinated with the aid of any gobshite or other fanzines, supporters clubs, the trust and, unlikely, the local press. Best of luck with that, eh!

  2. Mikey says:

    Regarding the local newspapers this is a great link found on nufc.com

    http://markbrophy.wordpress.com/2013/09/04/chronicle-capitulation-to-wonga/

    And I totally agree Michael with your piece…A bad hand….also another great article in the guardian regarding Joe Kinnear http://www.theguardian.com/football/2013/sep/07/10-questions-transfer-window-premier-league

    He really is out of his depth …Pardew must be crossing the days till he is booted out.
    As for Ashley…despise everything he stands for with his TAT…attitude to workers…who actually built his empire , Fuck me how did it come to this….Hopefully there is a saviour waiting in the wings who will listen to the supporters …The third most supported team in England…not won nowt in my lifetime…what a shambles

  3. Dave Ted Edwards says:

    It’s depressing but I think the hardest bit is the feeling of not being able to do a damn thing about it. Ashley acts like a fat kid who’s had the piss taken out of him and is going home with his ball. Kinnear is just a typical bullshitting toss pot who runs and hides when he’s foundout and Pardew is a lickspittle of the highest order. Read your contract Alan, I’m pretty sure eating shit all day isn’t in your job description. I’m not going to the match because I enjoy it, I’m going out of some twisted sense of loyalty and that’s probably the worst thing of all!!!

  4. David Chapman says:

    Usually love everything you stand for Michael Martin but this quote alone was like a knife in the guts for me…

    “For a boycott campaign to work, we need it to be allied to a potential buyer who we believe in. A boycott needs to be aligned to a potential sale of the club. We need a buyer to show his/her hand and to engage with supporters ahead of a bid for the club. Without that, it isn’t a boycott at all – you are just not going to the match.”

    You seriously believe if only10k people turned up for a Newcastle game wearing ’95 shirts against say…. Aston Villa, Mike Ashley wouldn’t react! your talking shite man…. The fee Ashley is asking for the club would drop immensely…..

    You can hope and pray all you like for some fucking nebulous fans consortium, which is like an afghan soldier spitting at a US tank all you like, but it will never happen… A boycott of all things NUFC is all this cunt will understand, so I hope True Faith isn’t going all Chronicle on us…

    A fucking march to go to SD Arena in a fucking Wanka shirt is only going to make us look like a bunch of nob heads, so please don’t…… oh you will.

    • David, there is absolutely no way organisers could deliver a four fifths boycott of a PL game when most fans have already paid to attend. The United Supporters For Change couldn’t do that in the late 80s and people hadn’t paid up front then. Leeds at home, first game of the 89/90 season anyone? Even if organisers could deliver that level of participation in an organised boycott, Ashley could easily ride it out and it would ultimately end in failure because there is no-one out there showing their hand about a purchase of the club. Unfortunately, as sales of the new W*ng* sponsored shirt go, the numbers of supporters who have any kind of consciousness about the club is not massive.

      • David Chapman says:

        Michael, first off I would like to apologise for my language in my previous post, I’d had a few shandys. My biggest fear for Newcastle United is and has always been mediocrity and that is exactly where we are at under this regime, I do believe a boycott of all things NUFC is the only way forwards, be it organised or not, money talks.
        I also believe the NUST is a complete waste of time, I mean look at what has happened under there watch, complete and utter waste of our time.
        The fear for me is that the current situation continues for the foreseeable future, spend nought float about in the bottom half for the next ten years making Ashley a lovely little earner on telly rights, its disgusting the way we are letting ourselves and our beloved club be treated, my heart still flutters when I see those black and white stripes and unfortunately that is probably why, in ten years time, I will still be boring my kids with tales of seeing Tino Asprilla on his debut or being one of the few people in history to see Kieron Dyer play a full ninety minutes.

  5. Donnie says:

    Its worth mentioning that the £11m Ashley took out and the £18m that was listed to be taken out are from the £29m he put into the club in 2011/2012. So he’s not actually paying himself from the club but rather temporarily putting some money in and then taking it back out later. The long term original loan of 111m from when he bought the club is still untouched.

    Big test for Ashley is going to be when the first payment of the improved TV deal is paid in 2014. If he doesn’t start spending more than we bring in from players sales then it’ll be 100% clear that he just doesn’t intend to no matter what the clubs finances.

  6. Mick Dixon says:

    GET OUT OF OUR CLUB

  7. William McGahey says:

    A boycott would have to be a mass one and over a number of games, if that happened it would have an effect but it has no chance of happening right now. There’s too many factions within NUFC’s support who all seem to want to same overall goal, yet are approaching it in very different ways. It’s great everybody has an opinion (sort of), there are too many to form a solid NUFC supporter base. Basically, I believe there has to be a sort of overall group with a representative from each ‘faction’, with a solid plan to remove Ashley and a plan for what happens after that.

  8. Matt Flynn says:

    If this march is a flop it will be cited every time anybody suggests doing anything other than shrugging our shoulders at the way Ashley is running our club. For that reason alone we should back it wholeheartedly. The media have picked up on it and if only twenty people turn up we’ll be a national laughing stock. Nobody outside the NE is going to look at the internal politics of supporting NUFC… they’ll be too busy pissing themselves at the stupid pathetic Geordies. As will Mr Ashley.

    Perhaps more thought should have gone into how we respond to the latest slap in the face handed out by Mr Ambition, but until NUST provide the legitimate leadership NUSC was created to provide the void will always be filled by random uncoordinated action.

    Everybody who actually makes a stand seems to get ridiculed by our support.

    At some point the question has to be asked if we get the club we deserve.

  9. Ian Orrick says:

    I agree with Mick that a boycott of Prem games just isn’t going to happen when 35,000 people have already bought their tickets for this season. However, long term, starting with next season I really think that those with season tickets need to think long and hard about not renewing. I know that the club make more from SKY than they do from gate receipts but the brutal truth is that every time you buy a match ticket you’re helping to keep this prick in charge at the club. It would be interesting to see how he’d react if gates went down to 30,000 or less next season – I suspect he’d be a bit more proactive in trying to offload the club.
    Personally I’d prefer to see us drop into the fucking conference rather than keep this bastard in charge.
    While I’m on, Pardew has lost his last life with me. What a fucking slavver he is. Anyone with an ounce of personal pride would have told Ashley to fuck off rather than put his name to that statement the day after the transfer window. I realise that all of us in our jobs have to put up with management decisions we disagree with but Ashley is constantly making Pardew the patsy when shit happens. Pathetic.

  10. Mikey says:

    Totally agree Ian about Pardew…I suspect as many other supporters do …he is hanging on as he knows this is the last gig in town for him premiership wise…and I am beginning to suspect his MO is the same as any where he has been ….reminds me of ICARUS…

  11. KenBrown says:

    About two months after Alan “trust me” Pardew succeeded Chris Hughton I tagged him as an arselicker, a bullshitter and an egotist and since then he has lived up to all three spectacularly. It is how he got the job in the first place. He is patently a big part of the Mike Ashley revenge team including the latest signing the Big Fat Joke Kinnear. He is, to put it into fairly modern jargon, “on message” and with seven years remaining on his contract he is not going to jeopardise that. About the only good thing that has come out of the Kinnear gig is that “Pinochio” Llambias has pissed off. Alan “trust me” Pardew knows full well that he would not have come anywhere near a job of the stature of NUFC if he hadn’t been Ashley’s pal.
    As far as a protest goes we have seen them many times before and unless there is a viable alternative such as there was when the Magpie Group were seeking control then Ashley will simply remain down south following his beloved Chelsea and continue to ignore us.
    Frankly we are between a rock and a hard place and it is difficult to see how we can change things. This is a pretty damn defeatist viewpoint but if past experience is anything to go by we are in it until Ashley himself decides enough is enough.
    ps I am following Swansea’s progress in this seasons Europa Cup to see if they suffer the same trauma in the PL that A “trust me” P so blatantly blamed for our poor performances last season ( a great example of his bullshitting skills).

  12. Tom Bates says:

    In regards to Ken Brown the difference between Chris Hughton and Alan Pardew is huge, Chris seemed as honest as the day is long and was someone who yuo could trust and listen to in interviews, when Pardew talks its best to change the channel as nothing he says is valid.
    I’m still upset by the lack of English players in our team but no one seems to give a monkeys about it, no I’m not racist but I dont understand the point of an English team in the English league with no Englishmen and mostly Frenchman?

  13. A very well thought out and thought provoking article as the above replys prove . There is too much content to reply on in depth but I generally agree with most of what Michael is saying although its a bit difficult to argue wthe some of the aforementioned contributors. We are only into the start of the season but anything we do must be well thought out , What we do as fans has to be considered and with a united front not just a few disgruntled fans jumping up and down . Anything thats going to move Ashley out of his utter complanency with the toon has to be magnanamous and decisive. Is it only regime change we are after or something much greater ? , we have had shit at the top for as long as I can remember, excluding the likes of Bobby of course . So lets have less ranting , even tho I have done a fair bit of that myself but let nots box ourselfs into a corner and have a civilised debate and come up with some solid proposals . Do I have the answers , NO but someone amongst us must have ,

  14. Graeme says:

    The fact that I find hardest to take is that there are only fifteen or sixteen comments on what is a first rate and hugely topical article. That to me demonstrates the level of apathy within our support and emphasises how any supporter based action is unlikely to achieve progress.

    The editorials on this site are a class apart from those which you see in the local and national press. Why would anyone read the back page of the Chronicle, but clearly people still do.

  15. Sadly You got a very good point Graeme.

  16. Mikey says:

    Good point Graeme…I always read the editorial here every Monday…says more that The Chronicle could print in a whole year

  17. KenBrown says:

    I went to SJP and into the ticket office and bought a seat in the upper level Gallowgate End T section and was quoted £22 (old fogy price). I offered the exact money and was in return asked for £23 because there was a “booking fee” of £1. When I pointed out that I was not booking the ticket but buying it there was a take it or leave it response. I took it, muttering my protest about Ashley rip-off etc.
    Upon arrival at the upper level concourse I discovered a heaving throng of fans buying food and drinks like it was the last place on earth for such things. Then, about ten minutes before half time I noticed a steady trickle of fans going down to the concourse which had grown to a steady stream with five minutes still to go. At half time I went down to go to the netty and the place was absolutely heaving with more fans pouring food and drink down their necks as fast as possible. Furthermore there was no shortage whatsoever of Wonga shirts on display.
    I left to go back up to my seat as the players were coming out for the second half with a large number of fans still down in the concourse.
    Now the point about all of this drivel is that with all the talk of protests and marches and meetings calling for the regime’s heads I get a distinct impression that the overwhelming majority of fans seem to simply accept what is going on and take the view that there is nothing they can do about it or that somebody else will sort it out. Certainly most of the everyday supporters I talk to are angry but will not be joining any marches or going to any meetings and also most of them don’t read the excellent fanzines that keep us up to speed on what is really going on. I hear them quoting some newspaper columnist or tv pundit as if they are the font of all knowledge and it is impossible to persuade them that they should log in to the fanzine sites or buy the magazines.
    In other words the vast majority of fans are simply going to the match happy to spend their money in SJP and are content sit back and let events take their course.
    Am I right?

  18. Tom Bates says:

    Ken ,yes

    • Unfortunately Ken and Tom are right I fear. We will go to Aston Villa and come back with three points , hammer Hull and get a result from Leeds cup game. Be a few places above the macems and all will be forgotten until we get a few injuries.

  19. David Chapman says:

    Ken,

    You can not seriously be having a go at other supporters after you personally paid 23 quid for a ticket to watch Mike’s boys at Sports direct arena, Jesus Christ, I give up!

    • KenBrown says:

      Good point Dave but in fact I had a season ticket in the East Stand until I gave it up after the fifth top season and have been going on an ad-hoc basis since. Can’t abide the management set-up.
      On the bragging rights front I am 72 yeas old and have been going to SJP since 1948/49 season and in that time have missed only two seasons the last one being when they sold Peter Beardsley. I have seen many protests and none of them were ever successful.
      Perhaps also there is an age thing about our “apathy” that is to say that most fans have been there and seen it before and are resigned to the situation and will therefore simply continue to support the team

  20. Peter Whitfield says:

    Although I agree with the sentiment of a march and overall fully back the aims of those planning it I agree with Mick that overall its counterproductive. Yes it will gain exposure for the cause and merit some air time, As pointed out however it will be the very worse aspects of the crowd that gain the exposure, the kids shouting abuse or looking for a fight that will get the headlines. The barely coherent 15 year old, can of Ace in hand who couldnt name 3 of our squad but likely knows every desk sergeant in Northumbria by name.

    I dont however agree with Michaels view of a boycott:

    “Boycotts have some merit in certain situations but this isn’t one of them.

    For a boycott campaign to work, we need it to be allied to a potential buyer who we believe in. A boycott needs to be aligned to a potential sale of the club. We need a buyer to show his/her hand and to engage with supporters ahead of a bid for the club. Without that, it isn’t a boycott at all – you are just not going to the match.”

    Yes, that is the ideal scenario for a boycott, if what you hope to achieve is “starving” the owner out of the club, threatening them with the loss of what they hold dearest ie the cash cow that NUFC is in the wrong hands. In this situation however, with Ashley at the helm thats not an option. Hes not in this to make money from the club, he didnt buy us with a view to making a profit from NUFC year on year. As you also pointed out, hes only interested in SD and how it can gain exposure/ sales.

    A boycott can work but only by means of highlighting the plight of the club via the press, empty seats at SJP can be big news, A fanbase famed for following the club through thin and thinner suddenly seeing sub 20k crowds would start the tongues wagging and make any self respecting journalist stand up and report it.

    A boycott is the only long term viable option in my personal opinion.