Date: 22nd May 2015
RELEGATION has loomed for Newcastle for the last half of the Premier League season and the Toon Army supporters have not sat on their hands, writes Ben Ramage.
The ‘Ashley Out’ campaign has grown hugely this year. The group blame the wealthy owner for plunging Newcastle into a third relegation fight in six years by not investing in the team, despite making a record £18.7million annual profit from 2013-14.
They have seen, as have most other football fans, that Ashley has no ambition for Newcastle beyond staying in the Premier League to pick up a share of the huge TV revenues the English Premier League generates. The club barely competes in Cup competitions anymore, and buy and sell players with only profits in mind.
Angry fans have boycotted many games recently, which will likely reoccur in their crunch relegation decider with West Ham. A statement released by Ashley Out said: ‘Many fans will continue their boycott, and avoid the West Ham United game. This is something we encourage and support as it will hit Mike Ashley where it hurts him the most.’
However, the group’s plans for after the game against the Hammers are even more significant. They intend to occupy St. James Park, their ground, with a
sit-in protest and show Mike Ashley that they will not stop until he sells the club.
They stated: ‘For those among us choosing to give up their season tickets, this will be our last game at St James’ Park until Mike Ashley leaves. We aim to make the most of this final opportunity to deliver our message inside the stadium in the strongest possible terms. Bring your flags, bring your banners and most importantly bring your voices.’
The most important part of this plan, bar the significance of the fans staying inside their ground, is that it will be broadcast on Sky Sports across the world. Fans stating that this is our club, and we will not be sidelined by a wealthy benefactor in the name of profit.
The protest has been cleared with Northumbria Police, and will be a passionate affair whatever the outcome. Should Newcastle be relegated for the second time in six years, the vitriol that will come in Ashley’s direction could be extraordinary.
Most football fans, barring those of Sunderland, can sympathise with the plight of the once grand club being plunged into mediocrity and danger every year by a despotic owner.
What is important here, and which must be realised in Scottish football as well, is that fans have the ultimate power over their football clubs. Boycotting matches hurts because you are leaving the club you love. You feel you shouldn’t be punished with missing your team’s matches.
But boycotting sends the strongest message to wealthy owners. Because all they see fans as is a cash stream. When they see the gate receipts dipping, that’s when they’ll sit up and take notice.
Mike Ashley has exploited the passionate Newcastle fanbase that packs
St. James Park every other Saturday because they love their club. 50,000 willing customers is all he sees.
Protesting is harder. Some fans will say you don’t really love the club, you’re damaging the club.
You aren’t. You are sending the message that this club is being run badly to the world. You are spreading their poor management across the media landscape, to reach thousands. And they hate it.
This is why the ‘Ashley Out’ campaign should be applauded. They have been brave. They’ve boycotted, they have protested, and in the end they will hopefully get their reward. Ashley Out, their club back.
The message is clear; fans have the power. Because of your strength in numbers, and your unquestionable place at the centre of football, you are in control. Don’t forget it.
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