Newcastle owner Mike Ashley has written a strongly worded letter to the secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Wright, in which he insists he’s being treated like a ‘pantomime villain.’
Ashley’s letter comes in response to a petition raised by Newcastle MP Chi Onwurah, and bears a vehement defence of his running of the club’s affairs, as well as claiming that said petition has resulted in employees of his companies getting harassed and intimidated.
It’s no secret that Ashley has little support among Newcastle fans, who have branded him unfit to run their club. Yet he has described himself in glowing terms in his letter, even stating that training facilities have improved ‘significantly’ under his stewardship.
The letter, dated August 3 and obtained by the Daily Mail, reads: “As owner of Newcastle United, I have provided the club with interest-free loans, the outstanding balance of which at today’s date is £144million, whilst I also cleared all of its third-party debts, which stood at £76m in 2006/07 and incurred finance costs of £6.5m that existed when I purchased the club. This enabled Newcastle United to establish an affordable ticket-pricing policy for fans.
“This includes a number of season-ticket prize-freeze schemes, which allows over 20,000 supporters to secure their ticket at a significantly-reduced rate every season.
“We operate numerous community-engagement programmes through our Foundation, who met with your predecessor Matt Hancock MP earlier this summer to discuss our work. I enclose below a link to the Foundation’s most-recent annual report for your information.
“Having attended Foundation Events on many occasions over the past few years, Ms Onwurah should be well placed to have a detailed understanding of the extensive good work our Foundation does within the community.
“Our training facilities have improved significantly during my tenure. They are fit for purpose and very clearly do not have a negative impact on performance, given we secured a place within the top 10 of the Premier League last season.”
Onwura had accused Ashley of not offering enough support to manager Rafa Benitez with regards to signing new players and investment in training facilities.
The Magpies have indeed signed six players since the end of last season, with Martin Dubravka, Kenedy, Yoshinori Muto, Fabian Schar, Ki Sung-yueng and Salomon Rondon all coming in, yet they’ve only spent £10.5m.
They have also raised £43.5m in player sales so far, having sold striker Aleksandr Mitrovic to Fulham for £22m this summer. It’s also worth mentioning that under Ashley’s tenure, the club have been relegated from the Premier League twice.
Benitez has since admitted unhappiness in his role as manager, lamenting over the fact that his side are being made to struggle for survival every season.
“Normally when we have had time and support, we deliver,” the Spanish coach said last week.
“So we have won trophies everywhere and it was the idea to do something similar here and I am not happy we have to just survive every year but at the moment we have to see if we can improve the squad.”