THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Tuesday 9 June ~

Yesterday Newcastle revealed a new and desperate method of attracting prospective suitors, people who will, it is hoped, end Mike Ashley’s disastrous tenure as owner. Yet the hasty takeover of West Ham, by the creditors of Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson, indicates how there are currently few around that are willing to invest. Reactions to the move to place a For Sale sign on Newcastle's website were predictably derisive. ”eBay the lads”, said the Sun. ”Joke.co.uk”, in the Mirror. Sunderland fans did not limp in making their offers, which ranged from confectionery to £10.

It is unclear how the ill-advised ad, akin to those that promote the replica shirts or trainers of Ashley's Sports Direct stores, will attract anything more serious than these spoofs. Investors possessing the £100 million to match the asking price are unlikely to conduct their football club shopping on the web. They more often prefer to be courted by middlemen, such as the ubiquitous Keith Harris of Seymour Pierce. Harris may now wonder what role his is (assuming that he wasn't directly responsible for the advert).

Two weeks into the close season, Newcastle are directionless. No pre-season arrangements have been made, deliberation continues over the suitability of Alan Shearer as manager and the future of an expensive playing squad is uncertain, though Aston Villa and Fulham are chasing Michael Owen. Meanwhile, over £100m is owed to Ashley. Some may believe the club represents a wise investment at a cut price. But the loss of Premier League status means their debts will grow each year, during which time promotion for a reconfigured side will be difficult. Even were they were an attraction, few globally have the funds to buy a football club anyway. Though the Daily Telegraph do report that a local consortium, involving Freddie Shepherd, is interested.

West Ham will be cited as a sign of hope for clubs waiting to be taken over. Gianfranco Zola has been promised funds for new players and things at the club appear well. However the deal, which saw ownership shift from Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson to CB Holdings, was more forced than planned. CB (Claret and Blue) is the investment vehicle of, among others, Straumur-Burdaras Investment Bank, Iceland. They are owed £80m by Gudmundsson and took control of the Hammers to protect their position. They intend to sell in a few years when economic conditions improve.

Straumer's involvement arose only due to Gudmundsson's plight, not from the desire to buy into the Premier League. It is only the Middle Eastern investors, such the consortium that are looking to purchase Portsmouth or the Abu Dhabi-based Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed at Manchester City, that bring the genuine wealth that Newcastle and others – the list is lengthy – hope for most. How many of these contacted the club, via This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., is questionable. Tom Whitworth

Comments (4)
Comment by The Exploding Vole 2009-06-09 15:22:45

"Even were they were an attraction, few globally have the funds to buy a football club anyway"?

Comment by onedeadbudgie 2009-06-09 20:09:13

In these recessionary times NUFC and Setanta do at least provide some entertainment. As well as the EPL the press are also slow to catch on. On Radio 5 tonight the assembled hacks expressed surprise and disgust that Ashley might no longer care about NUFC and just want to get out and cut his losses. Any sensible person would do that now. The new EPL with foreign owners means that clubs are an investment first. One hack made the point that any sensible buyer - assuming such might exist - would want the high wage surplus players shipped out first. Unless that happens you might not arguably know what you are letting yourself in for. The future looks bleak. Ashley's price of £100m might be a bit hopeful.

Comment by CJW1968 2009-06-09 22:14:51

If Ashley wants £100m for Newcastle, then surely a fans' consortium can easily be arranged. Just a £2k outlay for each of Newcastle's 50,000 regulars.

Why hasn't anybody suggested this? After all, we keep hearing about how they are the best fans in the world.

At this rate, with no buyer, no manager and clearly no plan for next season - they surely will fall through the Championship next term. The 12-1 odds on this happening looks quite generous right now.

CJW1968

Comment by jackofalltrades 2009-06-10 02:26:41

A fans consortium has been suggested many, many times in the past, but it's just not feasible.

Ashley doesn't just want £100 million for the club, CJW - he's also put the £100 million he's spent since taking over the club onto the books as a loan repayable to him by whoever takes over the club - at a rate of half a percent over bank base rate.

There's also another £60 - 70 million still owing for outstanding transfer payments and 'loyalty' bonuses, plus salaries of (after Owen and Viduka leave - we're still paying them till the end of June) £800,000 PER WEEK to find, with some players - eg Colocinni - on big-money contracts taking them up to 2013.

Then you'd have to find money for new players and a decent manager.

The £100 million he wants for the club isn't just hopeful, it's actually another example of Ashley being away with the fairies - he very publicly bought a Premiership club in 2007 for £130 million and now, in the worst financial climate EVER, is trying to sell a Championship club for £100 million....

Freddie Shepherd was monumentally incompetent at running Newcastle - in 1997, Newcastle were in profit, with money in the bank - ten years later, Shepherd was losing £30 million per year and owed £70 million - this is especially staggering when you consider that Newcastles turnover over this period was nearly £900 million!!

With big payments due and nothing left to borrow against, Ashley's money in the short term undoubtedly got Newcastle out of a hole, but now he's broken his toy and wants his money back, he leaves Newcastle in a far worse position than he found it - we now owe (him) £100 million, and with the loss of Premiership status face losses of easily £50 million....that is quite a feat in just a couple of years. And his current dithering surely bodes badly for Newcastles Championship status.

BTW, CJW, Newcastle don't go round promoting themselves as 'the best fans in the world', it's just lazy media cliche. Nevertheless, as you've noticed yourself, Newcastle have 50,000 enthusiastic regulars which isn't bad for a city with a population of 190,000 - THEY are undoubtedly Newcastle's best asset, but the amounts we're talking about to run a club this size is way, way beyond a fans consortium - Ashley's nearly a billionaire, and he can't afford it...

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