Takeover talks have been something of a god-send for those in the football media this week who depend on clicks to justify their existence. We’ve had claim, counter-claim and a whole load of other stuff to keep the great Geordie public clicking away looking for news. Take it from me, a lot of it is absolute tripe and designed to meet the appetite for news on what we all want to happen – Newcastle United to move from Mike Ashley’s woeful stewardship to new people with some ambition and responsibility to the good name and traditions of the city-region and club. A bit of respect for the people clicking through the turnstiles wouldn’t go amiss either.
Here is what we know:
Amanda Staveley was at St James’ Park for the Liverpool game last week. Amanda Staveley was also at SJP for the Stoke City game too. We know Mrs Staveley played a significant role in negotiating the sale of Manchester City from Thaksin Shinawatra to Sheik Mansour. Therefore it is highly likely Mrs Staveley is representing interests in the Middle East where she has considerable contacts and reputation. It’s a matter of speculation but as her husband is of Saudi heritage that is where an interest could lie. It equally might not and may rest in other oil rich gulf states i.e. Qatar, Abu Dhabi etc. We’re guessing.
We also know that Mrs Staveley and her business associate David Binks met Lee Charnley, Keith Bishop and Justin Barnes after the Liverpool game. That is well documented. Only Barnes is likely to play any role on the seller’s side in any deal as Ashley’s solicitor.
I don’t believe Staveley has any interest in a purchase of Liverpool Football Club. Standing up and cheering United’s goal against Liverpool last week would be a peculiar kind of PR blunder she had any interest in buying the Anfield club.
I’ve had conversations with several people over the last week none of whom know each other but there are a number of themes emerging. I have to point out none of these people are making any claims that could be considered copper-bottomed and nailed on fact. You aren’t going to get that kind of information at the moment and you should be wary of any media with attention-seeking headlines and so-called news.
Be aware there is a lot of manoeuvring between both parties. Put yourself in the position of someone buying or selling a house. The interest there might be in buying your house will determine your asking price. Other properties that are similar to the one you are interested in will determine how much you ask. Similarly, if property prices are increasing and you are under no pressure to sell that will also determine any sale.
I’d suggest applying that logic to Newcastle United.
Therefore if Mrs Staveley is representing clients interested in buying an English Premier League club she will want to understand the market and what other clubs are available. In assessing PL clubs I’m sure Mrs Staveley will be looking at potential, stadia, costs, debt, assets and the ability to do a deal.
Trying to think objectively, Newcastle United is the perfect football club to buy for so many different reasons. We have huge support and an ability to grow the following the club has. Newcastle United has a huge support but it is almost entirely based in the NE region. There is a huge opportunity to increase our support outside of the NE and in other countries, regions etc. The stadium is already there and is one of the most imposing of its kind in Europe. It can be extended at the Gallowgate End because Ashley has not moved any diggers onto the site despite taking the land and gaining planning permission. That’s not over.
We have a world class manager already at the club.
There is huge opportunity to grow revenue streams from a very low base i.e. merchandise, commercial etc.
The club has a strong identity known across football. Compare Newcastle United to the club Sheik Mansour bought at Man City and there is no comparison. We dominate an entire region. The club of the North.
Any new buyer into United would be welcomed with open arms and benefit from a tidal wave of goodwill by and large.
Everything is ready for Newcastle United to take off once the switch has been thrown.
The big question is Mike Ashley.
It is all about the money for Ashley. But he has been uncomfortable as a football owner. He has admitted himself he’s clueless and I wouldn’t seek to contradict him on that. I’m sure the additional profile he has achieved for Newcastle United has been a double-edge sword. On the one side he has achieved the kind of global exposure for his company that would have been impossible without eye-watering investment that would dwarf his purchase price of United and the money he has put in. On the other he has become a folk-devil for poor employer practices with his company the subject of media and parliamentary scrutiny which has left him squirming and the SD share price plunging.
It therefore doesn’t take a genius to work out what he might be looking for in any deal to rid himself of Newcastle United.
It’s obvious he’d like to retain advertising opportunities for Sports Direct – a company that has grown over the last decade at the cost of reduced Newcastle United revenues. As is demonstrated in his dealings with Rangers FC, Ashley wants to have his cake and eat it. At Ibrox, Ashley played his classic role. He swept down on a football club in significant distress and in return for loans extracted all the possible benefit he possibly could. Therefore he was pulling the back teeth out of Rangers with merchandise deals (aided and abetted by a certain Derek Llambias) as well as advertising opportunities which are still continuing.
I’m thankful to Craig Houston, one of the leading lights of the Rangers fans group, Sons of Struth for summarising Ashley’s activities by the banks of the Clyde. You can click here if you missed Craig’s blog post for us:
It’s just my guess but any prospective buyer is going to have to deal with sellers who will not want to give up lightly the significant advantages owning Newcastle United has for them. Therefore Ashley is likely to want to retain advertising opportunities around SJP after a sale. I don’t think any sensible buyer is going to wear that.
The same is true of United’s merchandising. Even the most cursory knowledge of what Ashley did to Rangers with their club merchandise should make us stop and wonder what has been going on with United’s own branded products. Remember Ashley bought domain names linked to NUFC merchandise a good six months before Hall / Shepherd sold him the club. We know Ashley is a shark. Do the maths.
This more than anything else in my humble opinion is what will hold up a sale.
That’s not to say Ashley will not want to extract the absolute maximum price for United. I’m sure he’s delighted at the media inexpertly advising us there are four parties interested in buying Newcastle United. There is nothing more any seller prefers than an auction where he can push buyers to their limits.
If there are four buyers, it’s an interesting time for them all to start pushing hard on buying Newcastle United isn’t it? Nothing suits Mike Ashley more than a bit of an alleged frenzy of potential buyers. We’re told disclosure / confidentiality agreements have been signed but we don’t know who by or for what purpose. Be sceptical.
Would you put it past Mike Ashley and his associates to be inventing ghost-buyers to create the impression of alternative purchasers to push up any price for the club or make the terms more beneficial to him?
A timeline for the sale is an interesting point to consider. Hopefully this would all be done and dusted before Christmas in order for new people to be in place and to have something of a productive January transfer window. That would be a novelty.
But my advice in all of this is keep an open mind and it won’t be over until any new owner is selling tickets to let us watch the Sports Direct shite getting crow-barred off the top of the Gallowgate. Form an orderly queue ladies and gentlemen.
That’s not the only subject of discussion around United over the last week. United lost a court case involving HMRC and there is increasing scrutiny of how the club has conducted its transfer business. We all have to spend some time attempting to understand the detail of this and we need some context to it provided by those with the appropriate expertise. There have been some lurid accounts of what could happen to those found guilty of fiddling the tax man and I have to confess to a smile at the thoughts of Ashley sharing a cell with Knuckles Murphy but we are some distance from that I’m sure. We’ll watch with interest and attempt to bring some expert analysis to it rather than guess-work and flights of fancy.
As has been explained elsewhere, true faith is stepping away from what was Gallowgate Flags and this will allow others to
become involved in moving displays at SJP to the next phase. We should really have done it in the summer but we wanted to be part of the work towards what was pulled off at the Liverpool game and we’d already started raising funds for that large Northern Soul style surfer flag that made its debut before the match – bought and paid for by Newcastle United supporters with a £400 donation from Alex Hurst and I.
There are great foundations for those who now with the responsibility to take the displays to the next levels they want to achieve. Exciting times!
We are leaving the new group with hundreds of new flags bought from the range of fund-raising we’ve co-ordinated as well as a nice kitty of £1000+ to be going on with.
We wish everyone who wishes to donate and volunteer to make the displays happen from now on all the very best with their efforts.
Alex and the Podcast lads (who have all been volunteers within Gallowgate Flags right from the start) will elaborate on the thinking behind the displays etc. Should be a great listen!
We now want to dedicate the limited time we have available to working with local community groups like the Newcastle United Fans Foodbank and supporting the valuable work they do.
A big thanks to everyone who helped us establish Gallowgate Flags and we’re really looking forward to what comes next.
Keep On, Keepin’ On …
MICHAEL MARTIN – Follow Michael on @tfMichael1892
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