Mike Ashley, businessman and current owner of Newcastle United Football Club, has announced his intentions to sell the club after ten years of ownership.
Ashley has been the sole owner of Newcastle since 2007 when he is believed to have paid over 130 million pounds to purchase 100 per cent of the club’s shares. He now wishes to have all of his shares sold by Christmas this year.
Newcastle United supporters have been hostile towards Ashley since 2008 when Kevin Keegan left his role as manager due to a falling out with Ashley and the senior members of the club. This dislike was typified by protests in the same year, with fans infamously calling the Newcastle ownership a “Cockney Mafia”.
Ashley has attempted to sell the club before, such as in 2008 when he claimed that he had listened to the demand of the fans and would sell his shares. A lack of interest meant that no deal was ever struck and Ashley has continued his ownership up to the present day. In a world where football is becoming ever more popular and money-orientated, however, it seems that there will be no such problem this time round.
Ashley has previously said that he “regretted” buying the club and an official statement from Newcastle claims that the club needs “a clear direction and a path to a bright and successful future”. This will be a future without Mike Ashley, and the opinions of the owner, club, and fans suggest that it is the right way to go.
Manager, Rafael Benitez, has pledged that the team’s focus is entirely on the next game and, as far as football goes, it’s business as usual. Off the pitch however, there is a potentially exciting and important opportunity for the club.
In recent years, a number of clubs have had their fortunes transformed by changes in ownership and the introduction of wealthy owners. Manchester City is the prime example of that, winning their first top-tier league title in 50 years in 2012. Could Newcastle follow a similar path to them?
This is a club with a proud and rich history, meaning that it should be attractive to potential wealthy buyers. Despite being relegated in 2009 and once again in 2016 from the Premier League, Newcastle have always been perceived as a top-flight team and their solid start to this season, leaving them in 9th, furthers this view.
Former Newcastle owner Sir John Hall has expressed his belief that this is an exciting opportunity for the club that could see them “move up to [Manchester United’s] level”. He also said that he could see the club being worth over a billion pounds in the future if the right investors take this opportunity.
44-year-old business woman Amanda Staveley has signed a confidentiality agreement with Newcastle and seems increasingly likely to buy the club from Mike Ashley, having also been seen in the director’s box at the recent Newcastle – Liverpool Premier League match.
Ashley is said to want around 400 million pounds for the club and with more than 28 billion pounds worth of assets world-wide, Staveley should have no problems in meeting the financial demands.
Whether it is Staveley or someone else, the Newcastle faithful will be hopeful that the new owner is prepared to aim for the heights of the likes of the Manchester clubs and be prepared to fund the club in the transfer market in a way that Ashley refused to do.
There are still a lot of uncertainties regarding the proposed sale of Newcastle United Football Club. Ashley’s intentions to sell, however, are clearer than ever before and it is a truly exciting time for Newcastle fans.
Image courtesy of Dom Fellowes