`

Magpie fans unmoved as Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley hits back at critics

Mike Ashley
Mike Ashley

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley found little support among fans after claiming he is being treated as a “pantomime villain” following a parliamentary petition against him by a Tyneside MP.

Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah launched a petition demanding he stop “exploiting” NUFC and its fans, stating the club was a key part of Tyneside’s social, economic and cultural wellbeing.

She accused Mr Ashley of failing to support manager Rafa Benitez, or provide the investment in players, training facilities and community engagement that Newcastle United needs.

But the Sports Direct founder has hit back, saying the petition against him was unfair and had led to employees of his companies receiving abuse, harassment and intimidation.

The businessman was writing to Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Jeremy Wright, in response to the parliamentary petition raised by Ms Onwurah.

His comments did not gain him much sympathy from frustrated fans, however.

Kate Roberts used The Gazette’s Facebook page to sayd: “That man is worth millions but he won’t spend money on players.”

Geoff Stansfield added: “They’ll go down this season if he can’t keep the manager.”

The comments follow publication of a letter published in the Daily Mail in which Mr Ashleyfiercely defended his stewardship of the club.

He outlines his .

He said: “The petition presents a wholly inaccurate assessment of the situation at Newcastle United.

“As owner of Newcastle United, I have provided the club with interest-free loans, the outstanding balance of which as at today’s date is £144million, whilst I also cleared all of its third-party debts.

“These stood at £76million in 2006/07, and incurred finance costs of £6.5million that existed when I purchased the club.

“This enabled Newcastle United to establish an affordable ticket pricing policy for fans.”

He added: “Furthermore, my continued financial support, the huge contribution of the world-class manager we retained, together with the fantastic efforts of our players and staff, enabled the club to swiftly recover from relegation in 2017.

“This contrasts starkly with the experiences of clubs such as Aston Villa and Sunderland, and, less recently, Leeds United and Nottingham Forest”