Mike Ashley 'regrets ever buying Newcastle United' - and brands MPs 'a joke'

Mike Ashley. Picture by PA.

Mike Ashley. Picture by PA.

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Newcastle United and Sports Director owner Mike Ashley has admitted he regrets ever getting into football.

The businessman, who took over the club in 2007, is facing the prospect of the second relegation of his unhappy time at St James’ Park.

And while he hopes to avoid the drop, aided by the appointment of new manager Rafa Benítez, he said he feels he has not made the impact he wanted to at NUFC.

“Do I regret getting into football? The answer is yes," he said in an interview with a national newspaper.

“I have had tonnes of fun in it but I haven’t been able to make the difference I wanted to in football.

“I wanted to help Newcastle, I wanted to make it better, that’s what I wanted to do. I haven’t seemed to have had that affect.”

Mr Ashley made the revelations in an interview with the Daily Mirror.

In a separate interview last night, he also branded MPs "a joke" and confirmed he will not give evidence in Parliament about how his workers at Sports Direct are treated.

He was responding after being summoned to appear in Parliament - and warned he could be held in contempt.

Mr Ashley instead urged MPs to attend his firm's Derbyshire headquarters - an invitation they have declined.

The Commons business committee, chaired by Hartlepool MP Iain Wright, said it was "disappointed" about Mr Ashley's refusal to attend.

"It is telling that he chose to give his response to the media rather than to the committee directly," said Mr Wright MP.

However, Mr Ashley told Sky News he felt MPs were "showboating".

He had been asked to attend Westminster on 7 June on the back of a BBC investigation into Sports Direct's warehouse working practices.

He had until last night to respond to a letter from Mr Wright.

In his response, on 10 March, Mr Ashley asked the committee to come to the Sports Direct premises.

Flak at St James

Mr Ashley has also taken heavy flak in his time at St James' Park, not from MPs, but from fans. But said he had intentionally handed control of the club over to managing director Lee Charnley and Football Board members Bob Moncur and Graham Carr.

Ex-head coach Steve McClaren had been the fourth member of the board before he was sacked earlier this month.

Mr Ashley said in the interview: “I have virtually nil affect on Newcastle United, in reality, because I only pick the board."

He added: “To get a football club to be the best it can be, you have to get the sun, the moons and the stars to align perfectly.

“But there is negativity around me as an individual when it comes to Newcastle, so the best thing was to make sure it was on solid ground and then step back and get them to self manage Newcastle.

“Create a board, get the board to appoint the manager, put the manager on the board as well and then not interfere.

“I don’t know what players they sign, I don’t know what team they are going to pick on a Saturday.

“All I say is, there is a bank account, when you have emptied it, it’s empty, don’t come crying to me for more money.

“That have had a proper go at it this season, I think everyone can agree with that, but the results haven’t been ideal.”

Asked by the Mirror how much was in the bank account, he said: “Virtually, nothing now. They have emptied it.”

Mr Ashley also indicated he had no interest in increasing his stake in Rangers.

“I don’t really want to have any influence in football to be honest. Looking after Sports Direct is more than a full time job," he said.