So what’s going on?
Here’s what we do know, in mid August Mike Ashley gave an exclusive to his besties at Sky Sports where he admitted he couldn’t (or was unwilling to) back Rafa Benitez in the transfer window and as a result the club was up for sale.
His exact words were,
“I must make it crystal clear that I am not wealthy enough in football now to compete with the likes of Man City etcetera, not just Man City. It's basically a wealthy individual taking on the equivalent of a country. I cannot, and will not. That's why, if someone would like to come along, take this seat and fund Newcastle with a nought on the end with more wealth than me, I will not stand in Newcastle's way.”
In the subsequent months a bidder that fits his own criteria has come to the fore, but he is doing exactly what he said he wouldn’t do - he is standing in Newcastle’s way.
On 1st October 2017, Amanda Staveley appeared at St James’ Park and after a couple of weeks it became apparent that she was interested in leading a bid to buy Newcastle United Football Club. Then (probably in response to rumours) Mike Ashley got his thoughts out in front of us all - again using his favourite media outlet Sky Sports - this is what Keith Downie reported on 16th October:
His words are there for all to see, and his words do not match his actions. So is he a liar? He’s certainly not acting in good faith or in the best interests of Newcastle United; yet those words - his “PROMISE” - are yet to be acted on. However the people who brought you these “exclusives” seem to be completely disinterested in following up on the story.
Why is that?
I appreciate that Mike Ashley’s Newcastle United can be a little like Donald Trump’s White House and gobby journalists can be banned for doing their jobs properly - but there is no way on God’s Green Earth that a football club would ban a Sky Sports reporter from their premises. Sky Sports pay all of their wages, it’s the bank that runs football. They are perhaps the only outlet to have the power to push this story - and yet they choose not to. Well shame on them. I know we aren’t talking about the Washington Post here - this isn’t All the President’s Men, but surely your own sense of professionalism would be pleading with you to dig deeper? Instead it seems like it’s all just a laugh, and as long as the joke is on us deluded Geordies then it doesn’t really matter.
I spent many years working in sales - and as my old boss used to say “something is only worth what someone is willing to pay” - considering there are no other bids and there haven’t been any other bids since 2009 then perhaps Newcastle United is only worth what PCP Capital Partners are willing to pay. That the value has not doubled or tripled during Mr Ashley’s decade of ownership is nobody’s fault but his own.
At the end of the day all we know is that if Mr Ashley does not sell and/ or back Rafa in the next fortnight the chances that Newcastle United will get relegated for a third time under his ownership will be frighteningly high. And if the worst does come to pass in May, then the price someone is willing to pay for the club will be significantly lower than it is now. All he needs to do is look at Them Down The Road to see how disastrous that could be.
PCP Capital Partners are still here; they haven't gone away. Their interest is real and their offer of £250m remains on the table. Rafa Benitez is working miracles trying to keep the show on the road despite Mr Ashley's unwillingness to back him financially, while he risks his asset in a gamble that all of Tyneside considers to be an act of unforgivable vindictiveness. It makes no sense to risk diminishing your asset when a well reasoned offer sits waiting to be accepted.
Yet Ashley seems hell bent on doing just that.
Perhaps Sky Sports could ask Mike, Why?