The news last week that so-called ‘payday lenders’ Wonga, otherwise known as loan sharks Wonga, have been ordered by the Financial Conduct Authority to pay £2.6 million in compensation, probably came as no great surprise to readers of True Faith. It certainly didn’t surprise me. Not that the story wasn’t appalling. The compensation will have to be paid to a staggering 45 000 customers, who received threatening letters from solicitors who simply didn’t exist. This was fraud on a massive scale. That it doesn’t somehow come as a great shock, very succinctly tells the story of just how untrusted Wonga are.
There are reports that Wonga may also face criminal charges, which given the size of the fraud, again should hardly come as any great surprise. We shall see what happens. But, if criminal charges are brought and are upheld in court, where on earth does that leave Wonga as sponsors of Newcastle United? Even if they aren’t brought, doesn’t the whole sorry affair reflect badly on those football clubs unfortunate enough to be sponsored by them?
David Cameron has been rightly criticised in the last week for his lack of judgement in employing Andy Coulson, now convicted of charges relating to phone-hacking at the News of the World, as his aide. Surely similar criticism has to be made of Mike Ashley? Not only is he happy to turn a once-great football club into little more than an advertising hoarding for two companies, one of these is now having to pay out £2.6 million in compensation for fraud. Yet, again to no great surprise, Ashley has been silent on this matter. Somebody somehow should be questioning him, even if the local press are still banned from St James’ Park.
As for the other company it was of course revealed last summer that Sports Direct employ 90% of their workforce on zero hours contracts. There has been at least some good news on this front as the exclusivity clauses, which meant that those employed on zero hours contracts must sit and wait for a phone-call and not be allowed to work for anyone else, are to be outlawed. Hopefully employers like Ashley, not to mention the charming folk at Buckingham Palace who have used exclusivity clauses, will take note. At least a tiny part of today’s terrible bias towards unscrupulous employers has been overturned.
I remember the dark days of 1981, before Keegan came to the rescue and the similarly dark days a decade later, before Saint Kevin rode to the rescue again, but am I the only one who thinks that the situation at Newcastle United is in some respects at its lowest ever ebb? Can anyone remember such apathy, even from many of those who renewed their season tickets, many I suspect for no other reason than they would miss match-day as a social occasion?
Perhaps most pertinently, how much longer do we have to endure the good name of our club being dragged through the mud, by the highly unethical corporate greed of the likes of Ashley and Wonga? That we live in a very unfair society, where very wealthy, very powerful and often deeply immoral people are far too often able to get away with their appalling behaviour should not be an excuse. There needs to be huge change both at our football club and in the society, whose lack of decent morals it sadly reflects at present.
© Peter Sagar June 2014
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