In black and white: why Newcastle United fans want Mike Ashley out
Today the football fans taking on their clubs billionaire owner and beauty pageant applications are on the rise but but has anything changed this part. The ground here is sam. The gallagher corner was basically need lots corner of the ground it was said probably the most role as to us look like expression rajhi's went. This was it'll be placed in some fantastic four was going back to the fifties and sixties when this place was absolutely swarming where people are just sums up the enthusiasm. There is for football on this <hes> this fantastic would flawed football clover support for newcastle united fans. James's is park stadium right in the center of the city is the heart of club but now it has also become the backdrop for boycotts awesome protests as supporters make a stand against the clubs billionaire owner mike ashley also owner of the highstreet chain sports direct and does he bought the club in two thousand seven the stadium has become almost one big advocate for sports direct with signs all over the grounds its defilement deferment of the football ground and just on the roof that sports direct them that is exactly where the club crest should be. It's kind of a in my opinion. It's like our sponsor your welden written both you have to put linear may on your wife's wedding dress. Mike ashley is renowned for buying failing brands at rock bottom prices and for making savings at every possible possible ten but now things are looking uncertain for some of the big brands in his empire shares in sports director fallen to an eight-year low in response correct says it regrets rescuing house of fraser as one that there will be more store closures. Mike ashley said the problems of the department store would nothing short of terminal. I hope you worried about the tax bill. No ordinary we find poetry yes tacky concerned of minor was go on yahoo. Strong keeps become and newcastle united fans a worried about the club's future. The premier league starts today and on sunday. There's there's a planned boycott of newcastle's first match the season against arsenal to send a clear message to ashley that he's no longer welcome on tyneside from the got in india wrexham today infocus mike ashley thus the fans who will win in the battle for newcastle united. They just let you know there is a little bit of strong language in today's program. It's just your new kathy united united fan. I am from hartlepool bush a lot of people from hartlepool in newcastle funds to take when when i was a kid with with all his meds and you're also produced a hair today focus and you've been up to newcastle to meet some of the supporters. Tell me who you met. Yes the first person i'm was wallace wilson. Listen thank you so this kind of really unassuming kind of polite guy. He's very quiet. Hit book is passion for football. Kind bursts out new young luxury played against newcastle. Andy absolutely destroyed right back absolutely destroyed them. I i am going to newcastle games in nineteen sixty three and he had a season ticket for about three decades and he's got this like huge collection of much watched programs that he's been keeping since then. It's pretty must have yet to solve like open. It was lofton. Bring like a box of his favorite ones to see quarterfinals which we played against toria setup all it was an absolute blizzard martin and the picks up two handfuls of snow and started rubbing into his own. He was really came gene from save these particular ones from from the time in newcastle when the fez corp in nineteen sixty nine when he was nine. It's one of the last times newcastle of actually anything thing. I used to go to every game current much of the afternoon with me and we used to walk over you could see saint james's park from my house. We descend down the hill and then over the time bridge you are getting closer to the ground and and there were more and more people heading in the same direction you felt part of something you felt part of a growing force heading towards the grand so madonna made probably do a lot together but we did that that was our time every fortnight and it was yeah it was it was important. I think it is special at newcastle. It's evidenced by the fact that even when we are poor porcine that's not challenging for trophies. They're still pulling in fifty two thousand to every home game now. That's either blind loyalty. Fanaticism or people are just completely stupid is probably a combination of the two you met wireless burst and then you went to emme michael. Tell me about him. Yes so let that night. I mess michael martin. My name's michael naughton to founded the truth fund zine. He was one of the founders of the original newcastle supporters trust kind of a massive figure among this diehard community unity newcastle funds so smartly dressed in a polo shirt buttoned up all the way and the polo shirt was black and white. Where did you meet him so we met in a pub called strawberry which is a really special place for for newcastle funds. It's right next to the stadium. Send gems is park of being a nerd much of with me dad and his mates and you have to literally q. across the entire room and like the daughter go pint and when the walls like just absolutely packed full of pictures of grit figures from newcastle's history jackie milburn and malcolm macdonald twenty seconds gone donald debut. James's talk scores his first goal keegan. We're still fighting for this title and i'll tell you honestly i will love it if we beat them. Look it she in wall suggested absolutely covered. We were wounded. Altea not a wonderful full say to watch being held by de eight hundred mike ashley in my opinion the most miserable taint period if newcastle united entire history from it ninety-two rate up to the modern age being eh positions but we haven't felt the sewer dispirited as we as we all right now i think he's emptied. The klezmer and he's in the club of a lot of things is empty. Club of assets is emptied it if people so there was hardly anybody that works. It's james's talk anymore and the club is more or less run from shah rukh sports direct headquarters so the club's not a major. You know decent employer than it was so stayton literally has taken livelihoods of people. He's also cheapen declawed but i think the i think the big thing is emptied. The twelve is open. I'm vicious and people just being obstinately fed up to the back teeth of the same mm-hmm shit season after season after season which is ashley just doing the bam to keep the club in the premier league investing investing in absolutely nothing. Mike ashley the a self-made retail tycoon. It's famously the owner of cheap fashion chain sports direct and he also has a history of buying up shares in struggling brands like french connection evans in cycles and the department store house of fraser all at rock bottom prices but his purchase of newcastle united twelve years ago felt like a whole new gain it just floated sports direct stock market and become a billionaire in terms of the value of a shareholding david cone writes for the guardian about sport and particularly on football's relationship with money and mike ashley has said that he didn't really know what's to this money so he bought football club. I don't think that he bought newcastle united up. I as an investment. It seems like you know he'd become a billionaire and it was something that was going to give him a lot of phone. He did say that and he's a lot. I wanna have some fun and winston trae face. Yeah i think supporters what is required hopeful when my cash league. I took over quite show being one of the team at one point. He was there in the stanley's ashley downing pine in his newcastle best. What do we actually know about him. So mike ashley is these are sort of rhodesia cheeked round-faced character who owns he's by far the majority owner of sports direct which which started with one shop and is built into this high-street behemoth which has also take off almost every other sports retailer that we had on the high street tumble. I this play the white shirt just eight pounds eight dense dongcheng god. I three pounds three pounds the way that he's done interest on price. It's cheap reduced. Special offers just plastered everywhere in the shops. There is a pilot high sell cheap fail our what is personal smell style than as a businessman you know the doctor of lots of drinking going to the casino you know there was a court case where ah businessman was claiming that he'd made an agreement within in one of these drinking evenings and in the course of the evening mike ashley ashley it vomited in the fireplace and i think that's become quite assaultive conic moment when people think about my cash in his business style by also ashley himself is very forensic. He's very obsessive four hundred thousand square feet if it's one hundred and fifty pounds of square foot foot doctor that's fifty million to refit those out surprises door. He's got a grip on every detail of the sports direct business if he can see away to shave a half a second off a delivery time and realized that that will save x. many millions of pounds over all the business. He'll do it so i think to paint him. Just as the good time charlie misses the forensic business person that has built highstreet empire octave time when the highstreet has been a disaster for so many other companies and it and it became clear as well but his cost cutting didn't stop at the time saving it also came at the expense of his employees in twenty fifteen the guardian carried out with big investigation into the working conditions at the sports direct distributions entering cyber rescue is they found that temporary workers were effectively receiving hourly rates of pay below the minimum wage because of strict searches around shift times names and more than eighty percent of the softwares zero hours contracts. The center was described as this kind of candian workhouse westoff were given even black marks for sickness or long toilet breaks among old led to a parliamentary inquiry and then david that is amazing easy maimon wet not long after the news breaks he goes to visit the warehouse to kind of give shareholders journalists a bit of a tour an on camera he goes through the search procedure that that people complained about promotions context of your pocket into the great trade he empties his pockets and there's a massive word of fifty pound tapes in his pocket another okay yeah and the contrast between green the wad of cash and you know the less than minimum wage people are earning was. Let's say not a great look up first when he bought nicosia knighted. Things are going pretty well. He made funds very happy when he bought the legendary kevin keegan as manager but then he and actually fell fell out very badly and very famously over the signing of players you call these people in the you know why because conscious them they tell you one thing. They mean another that you left. That seemed to be a big turning point for the fans at that point. Mike ashley said well. He obviously wasn't having fun any more. It was intensely unpopular with supporters and he said that he would sal up so he wants <hes> in a considerable amount of money for it and it didn't didn't happen and then it was certainly a coaching change where mike ashley said i'm coming back and i'm going to run the club as a business. How how does he run. It gradually came to be a feel that the cost cutting was taking over and overlaid with that walls walls what you can think of as the source of sports directive education of the stadium sit james's park. I mean it's a lovely name for ground sin. James's james's park. I there was a proposal to actually rename it. The sports director rina well an- not was spelled. It's quite wipe difficult to think how he could have made himself more unpopular than by doing that but if you think of it as a shrine a hallowed place to to then just brimmed as a sports director rina was terribly crass nap to an interchange briefly before paying quite quickly reversed but james's poc but it still feels like a sports direct amina right <hes> the have absolutely plastic the stadium with sports direct advertising to fail this is kind of cheapening of it that it's become almost like a branch of the sports direct pilot high-solid cheap sports retailing empire. The house really sore twisted the knife. There's has the heart and the history of the club but there's also what's going on in the background in the cubs. Finances and newcastle funds failed despite the financial windfalls enjoyed by many other primarily clubs. They have seen a bad minimum of investment in the twelve years the ashley his own the club. They've seen to allegations and only one finish above tenth place ace. The cub has been up for sale since twenty seventeen with two high profile takeover times failing and ashley reportedly asking for twice the price he initially bought it for aw and over a period when commercial revenues are other clubs skyrocketed newcastle stagnated sports direct until recently was effectively getting free advertising appetizing that nemanja is the lowest paid in the league and to add insult to injury the new hampshire for fans is the most expensive saving the league at sixty five pounds supporters are actually financially aware enough to recognize that a football club flip does have to live within its financial means so adoption. They're expecting get locked star players but they feel like it's gone way too far. The other the way on the the whole emphasis is on the bottom line. Mike ashley might have a different perspective on this. He might say hey the in the realities they real willed realities of the premier league. <hes> monstrosity around by an abu dhabi shake in manchester united is an absolute money-making machine chelsea's hung by russian oligarch and you know in that company newcastle the united just don't make the money they don't turn over the money which is clips do and therefore they can't attract those kinds of plays they can't realistically compete in the top six and therefore he's only being honest to say look. We're in the premier league. <hes> we finish around tenth than than we're doing. Well count your blessings wchs but but i think the counter to that is you know. They think that they think they could be a liverpool now. There are major club with stadium. That's moving. I got more than fifty thousand people in it. It's just a feeling that there's so much more potential there. Then it's achieving under mike ashley sports direct to be fat to mike ashley. The club has spent spent some money this year on new players but i think the most fans summer has been overshadowed by one moment the extremely popular manager rafa benitez leaving leaving the club again how to feel like they really weren't spending very much money at all and what benitez sad was that he wasn't being supported take to be able to rome nicosia united in ambitious way fans on happy. The fed up fed up of being fed up <music> josh. It's pretty clear that fans want ashley to sell the club and just leave. How have the support has been responding to the current situation. So the way michael martin describes it is the result of two phelan's among funds anger and apathy on just what you see in the protests outside the sports director on northumbrian street of sort of been going on for years and it's also the driving force behind kind of the next step. Which is this boycott. <hes> this proposed boycott of the oslo much this weekend attend so after three decades of being a season ticket holder wallace gave up his season ticket and stop going like a few years into my customers ran and is now he's the one trying to organize the funds and so of mobilize them to take action against actually. I think what's happened. Is this is probably the the worst thing what's happened. Is that mike ashley has recognized that newcastle's greatest asset is its support and how loyalties and what he's done is. He's exploited adot support for his own ends so he knows they're going to continue turning up and he thinks to himself. This is going to provide a wonderful backdrop to my adverts for my businesses until until people stop going is going to continue that because it's the only way that you can you can impact on mike. Ashley is financially. He's not bothered about football. It's just go to for him to make money. The supporters only really own one thing inside the ground and not the atmosphere. If we can change the atmosphere we have hold horde of empty seats then that's going to completely change the backdrop for mike ashley's adverts and i think that's the way we we have to approach it if he can do that then perhaps you'll become a more willing seller it might it might take a long long time <hes> but we're prepared to be here for the long run however long it takes who about michael. How does he feel about some michael martin's kind of gone on the other way. He says he's drifted from what used to feel as anger into uppity on oh dozens of people who would have considered to have been absolutely black and white so that bootstraps who don't go anymore. It probably going watch eleven long white shirts and a washing lane. You know dot tape tape of support do just that just logged off so to speak and that's all down to make ashley. You've been a season ticket holder for how long dodger jesse a._d. Stephanie the thirty odd years. I would think the union said jeeze. I've still got me season tickets. I haven't pressed the button on. 'em on counseling selected direct debit. I haven't got round. That's something i'm going to have to do with strong. Drink a thank and but just account envisage go into games. I am because there isn't any joy behar knowing what we knew about how he's running a club icon accompanying myself to want to field the level of frustration again not going to football matches got a lot more to do than just not spending ninety minutes camacho. It's it's it means you. You'll even a network of friends and <hes> routines dots. Actually you don't realize when you're not going to do it really does mean to you know because and it costs painful. It's painful you know but it just doesn't make me feel good anymore. No-one not which the club what it means history the support as the people love it of being ripped off by this blog and how he approaches the football this clearly means to the supporters but newcastle so is just a small part of ashes empire and at the moment the retail core of his business is facing some major challenges having recently bought house of fraser. The chain has lost millions. Millions stores are closing dobson cut. Several senior executives have left his company and even sports. Direct stores are struggling. The high street is under the great challenge many from online <hes> shopping just about everywhere and my actually was this exception then because formula exports to iraq and he was seeing off <hes> all the other sports retailers but this seems to have been a real <hes> <hes> called bath four and one thing that really means to main concept of newcastle united is this is a very busy man. This is a mom fighting fires on many different fronts and so how much do attention does in county really give to newcastle united and how how much does he really care about an effort is surviving doing decently and it's financially sound and making a profit is my cash league and a really care that some supporters wish it was doing better than i think the answer to that from the evidence that we've seen over the last few years his know that he'll be quite satisfied with that so david we kind of got this picture of mike ashley as a businessman who has built his fortune on buying brands runs squeezing every ounce of value out of them and almost removing bare essential quality in order to make a profit or costs. Do you think this sports what's direct kind of approach is what's happened at newcastle united over the last half yet. This is something that when i first started writing about mike ashley newcastle united indepth the i kind of just slowly started to realize so you go into sports direct store and you see browns really mean law that how the real cashier at the time so <hes> so there's lonsdale in that that's as lon- as ever last they really evoke kind of class and sporting so of glorious but what what you realize is he's bought the browns mostly when they've actually gone boost so he owns the name and the actual gaya gaya the kit that's being manufactured to have those names on just isn't off the same kind of classy <hes> quality evatt you associate with it and thinking it through and talking to some newcastle supporters about this. They can't help feeling that this is. What's kinda been happening with their own club. He's rain is a cutler broken promises but i can't. I don't see us giving up. We're going to stay here and we're going to keep doing stuff and making life uncomfortable for mike ashley until he leaves we can return to be competing football league wigan. We asked a representative of mike ashley and of nicosia united. I want to this episode but neither wanted wanted to comment. You can meet more if david kahn reporting and keep your eyes on the boycott at the guardian dot com and as the primarily kicks off. Do you follow this this season with our podcast comrades on the guardians football weekly with max rushton every monday and thursday coming up. Why a more women than ever applying to be miss england. I'm john and i'm sorry i liked t. I said we'd be happy appea- if england won the world cup but lost the ashes. It's not true i wanted to do. I know it's greedy but positioning the earn next to the world cup of ben stokes's mantelpiece piece would make this the ultimate summer for english cricket so join us on the spin as we turn our selves into emotional wrecks all over again. It couldn't be nerve wracking as a world cup final could he. The spin is supported by natwest now applications to compete in missing land arising this year they reached more than twenty thousand pageants are apparently now about character and personality charity and empowerment but the guardians ama- collier has been trying to work out what if anything is different a lot of people would think of beauty pageants is having discount nineteen eighty s very kitsch feel about it is miss universe. Barbara colosio's audio's payday t._r._s. sachets sequence everywhere people requesting world peace in the finale tastes ended up to the missing lind final in newcastle. I mean to be honest. There was still quite along that element. They're trying at least on the surface change things. They've not got the sims round anymore. Although it's exists optionally you can send in pictures and you eh they all raising money for charity. There's some of the people i met with doctors basham kaji on the missing lindsey thousand the noisy bill rate russia and when she won the ceremonies on the thursday they ni- and then she ended up doing i as work in hospital as a junior doctor on the friday and i asked her about you know why would you do this partly because because you know being a doctor as a very public role to have to occupy i'm cheated. She didn't seem very concerned about that. There is still a large portion of the of the academic population that luke patten said in prejudiced way they do think affairs by old-fashioned and objectification of women. I like to change that and for that. We need role models. We need people walk who have branched out to both feels academia and community and that's always been my passion to break stereotypes. Law of conversations are having kind of centered around this idea of objectification edification and some of the arguments kind of said well. There's a mr england competition so well. If you object defying women than your jets flying men too i i mean of course you might just be objectified. Everyone basha had an interesting point to make where she said what we need to do. However is to use that to to our advantage. This is why <hes> then fundraising. Effort is pushed so much because we are able to do that. I was standing there the other day with the crown on nice makeup on and they'll girls were coming up to be thinking. I was princess. They want to take pictures with me and then you talk at the parents obviously today <hes> and then you tell them what we're trying to do. That's how the message gets sent out so yes. Objectification is as much as a positive thing as it is a negative. It was kind of disheartening to hear that i feel because it was very much focused defeatist in a way that you know i'm i'm stuck in this position. There's nothing nothing i can do. Challenge it so i might as well try and use it to mind to. Some kind of advantage is one of the questions i was asking. Organizes organizes as well as keen on on changing the image of the panchen. Why even call it a beauty pageant anyway. That was one of the things i kept coming across his night. It's not what about beauty it's about carta sanity but it clearly is and you know thought still clearly kind of sells for them. It does it bigness dalj. I feel around you know the missing link contest because it is the most historic things running since nineteen twenty eight so even though are they all trying to change as himse ground and they really loved to talk about how it's optional. It's always he's still there. <hes> it's clearly still rating rating women based on their bodies. Let's say that there's definitely a reluctance to say goodbye to the traits that make pageants problematic. They always say that the glomma world is glamorous from the talk but it's actually quite nelson glamorous when you get deep into it at the same time. Same medicine is very d glommed on from the talk but it's very beautiful on the inside and i think you need birth in like that was my thanks to him and to david kahn and of course michael martin and wallace wilson in newcastle that that is all for this week. We'll be back monday. Today's program was produced by joshua kelly and gary marshall with thanks also to salvage ally and davies. The sound design is is by actual kakuta and the executive producers are film may not an nicole taksin. We'll see you next week.