'Here we go again' say Newcastle fans
The following statement has been issued by Newcastle United Supporters Trust:
After a period of relative calm at Newcastle United - a period when the Club froze season ticket prices for ten years, finished in the top five of the Premier League and gave long-term contracts to the manager and his key backroom staff - all are quickly forgotten by many fans who are unhappy about the decision to sign online money-lending firm Wonga as the Club's shirt sponsor.
Add this to their failure to appoint Alan Shearer as permanent manager despite their promises, the manner in which Kevin Keegan and Chris Hughton were sacked and the renaming of St James' Park - just a few of the PR disasters that the Club has endured since Mike Ashley's bought the Club in 2007 - and fans are saying, "here we go again".
The Trust asked its members for their thoughts about the new deal and their views. In short, although they are happy that the stadium will formally revert back to St James' Park and agree that the money targeted at the Newcastle United Foundation Enterprise Scheme are good things, they are not happy about the link up with a payday loans company.
Our members raised concerns about how this legitimate company makes its money and that there is no obvious link between the NUFC and Wonga names. Our fans described the deal as 'disgusting' and were 'horrified' and 'upset' at the news and could not imagine the clubs that finished ahead of them last season - Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham - signing a deal like this. They also believe that the association of the Wonga name with Newcastle United, which should strengthen or enhance the Club, actually damages the Club's name.
Fans are again concerned that the exact figures for the deal have not been released, but would have assumed it to be in excess of the £8-10m per year that Llambias claimed that the naming rights to the stadium would be worth when St James' Park was renamed in late 2011. However, the figures speculated in the press have varied between £6m and £8m per season.
The Trust has run a number of surveys amongst fans in the past two years. The initial hostility to Mike Ashley and Derek Llambias has subsided in that time and while the majority of fans would prefer a new owner, there is praise for the way that the Club's finances have been stabilised through cutting the player wage bill and though a series of shrewd, value-for-money signings.
However, the latest decision by the Club regarding a new shirt sponsor appears to fans as a lack of understanding for the heritage of Newcastle United. At some level, it is to be expected that an owner and managing director with no links to the city or the Club and who do not engage with supporters ,could in the eyes of fans make this latest mistake.
As a Trust, we have continually sought to meet with the Club in a bid to work with them on fan issues so that these disasters can be averted. However, our letters to the Club and Mike Ashley have never been acknowledged, let alone responded to.
The Trust recently approached the Newcastle United Foundation to help organise an end of season player awards event and even offered to make the Foundation one of the Trust’s chosen charities - so that any fundraising initiatives by the Trust would be shared with the Foundation. In both cases, these offers were declined.
The Trust again asks the Club and now, the new commercial partners Wonga, to meet with the Trust so that we can work together for the benefit of the Club and to hopefully end what feels like a never-ending series of bad news stories.