You might have had to blink twice if you watched Newcastle play Tottenham on Sunday, empty seats at a Premier League game are normally left at the Etihad Stadium. A planned boycott ensured St James’ Park’s official attendance for the game was the lowest of the season, 47,427 to be exact. This figure is far from accurate however, as plenty of season ticket holders stayed at home or handed out leaflets outside the ground.
Frustration has been a key emotion to the average Newcastle fan, as they regularly watch the club fall short of expectations. Match this with an incompetent owner in Mike Ashley, who is reliant to spend money on transfers yet happy to sell bright stars, and you can understand their pain. The club reported an £18.7 million profit recently and reportedly had £34 million in the bank account at the end of last season. Despite this, no money was spent in the January transfer window on much needed additions to the squad.
Over the past few years the club have made some superb signings, though they tend to leave after a few years to bigger clubs. Yohan Cabaye left last year for PSG despite large protests from fans. The money from his transfer is yet to be properly spent and no clear replacement has arrived.
The website www.ashleyout.com were responsible for the boycott and it’s main aim is to ensure Mike Ashley places Newcastle up for sale. In his 7 year tenure the teams average finish has dropped to 13th, with the club respectfully averaging 8th in the 7 years beforehand. The website and it’s supporters handed out 20,000 leaflets on Sunday at St James’ Park, they also hired a van plastered with Ashley out on the side of it.
The campaign is well supported, a look at pictures of the empty seats last weekend will tell you that. It comes as no surprise. The club have stagnated under Ashley and the owner has made a vast amount of unpopular decisions whilst in charge of the club.
That I am able to write St James’ Park in this article and be correct is something that would have been wrong 3 years ago. For a brief period the clubs iconic ground was named the Sports Direct Arena, their tacky logo taking over the picturesque ground. In fact the name was only rightfully returned to St James’ Park after a lucrative sponsor deal was struck with controversial company Wonga.
Further outrage was caused by this, many Newcastle fans were unhappy about being associated with a company with questionable ethics. It also caused turmoil in the squad as Papiss Cisse refused to wear the shirt, as it went against Sharia Law by promoting the benefit of lending money. The club appeared like they might lose another star player, though in the end this situation was resolved.
Now the club find themselves with an interim manager, sitting in an uncomfortable 14th position in the Premier League. The iconic club find themselves sitting only 7 points above the relegation places, though it is incredibly unlikely the club will go down, it does not bode well. The club, and Mike Ashley, have yet to respond to the campaign and the boycott. I’m sure neutrals (with the exception of Sunderland fans) will hope that Newcastle are able to return to their former glory and solve their boardroom problems.