The Newcastle Board have indeed answered the Newcastle fans’ questions and they seem to be in some detail.
Mike Ashley and Derek Llambias
We’ll list the answers to each of the questions and give our take on each one, and as usual readers are welcome to add your own opinions.
And it seems the Evening Chronicle is also gathering responses for each question and will relay them back to Derek Llambias at the club.
Here we go – here are the first five questions – with our responses to each.
Where’s the money that was pledged to be reinvested in the squad after the sale of Andy Carroll gone?
We made it clear when we sold Andy that the fee we received would stay in the club, and it has.
The money will be spent prudently within the club and on new players as and when we are in a position to do so. We didnt promise to spend all the money in this window. Money will be available going forward, for the right player at the right time. If the club had been able to move on other transfer targets this summer, then more money would have been spent.
Its a point weve mentioned before, but transfer fees are only one part of the cost incurred in signing players. A free transfer mistakenly indicates that it is without cost to the club, but no transfer is actually free. Most supporters will be aware that the agents fees, signing on fees and salaries are inflated in deals with free agents.
Our wage bill this season will increase by seven percent as a result of the business weve done, including new deals for existing players. Assuming a tenth place league position, that gives us a wages-to-turnover ratio of approximately 65 per cent.
Any suggestions that the owner has in some way profited from the sale of Andy are absolutely untrue.
The response doesn’t explain why the Board were so tight on bidding for some of the strikers and wouldn’t cough up the extra £1M or so it would have taken to get the targets into Newcastle.
The free transfers are not free that’s correct, but at most the amount paid by the club cannot be more than £1M and usually a lot less than that, so that’s just wall dressing. We could have had to pay up to £1M to get Demba Ba, but he was the most expeinsive by far.
It’s very hard to see how the wage bill will increase by 7% when the club hasn’t now got Campbell (£45K/week), Kevin Nolan (£55K/week), Jose Enrique (£45K/week) and Joey Barton (£65K/week) at the club – that in itself is a savings of almost £11M a year in wages.
65% of wages/revenue is a decent average and down from around 73% during our relegation year, so that’s a good move.
Why is there such a lack of communication with the fans from Mike Ashley and his board?
When Mike Ashley bought the club back in 2007, we were keen to engage with supporters and did so with some regularity.
As a result of some of the things we’ve done in the past there will always be fans who will not like nor believe what we have to say. The upshot is that when we speak publicly more often than not we are criticised.
Some football club owners and board members talk regularly in public and enjoy it, others don’t. We much prefer to concentrate on running the club and letting the football do the talking.
After the statement I made last week, it was interesting to read comments from some supporters saying “I just wish they’d shut up!” Of course everyone has a different view, that’s football for you, which as we all know is a very passionate game.
We understand the natural appetite for information and the need for fans to have clarity on the direction we’re taking the club. It’s why we have committed to an annual mission statement from the board, along with regular communications from our media department.
Last year the media team facilitated over 500 interviews with the manager, players and other club officials which demonstrates that the club does place importance on communicating with fans.
Very poor answer, and who cares if they get criticized – try writing a blog on the club.
The Newcastle fans are the customers of the club and therefore the customers of Mike Ashley and the fact he and Llambias hardly communicate at all with them is simply ridiculous and unacceptable, and to us their biggest failing.
Who cares if they get criticized, that’s part of the territory – and they shouldbn’t worry about their feeling being hurt – give me a break.
As we said a very poor answer, and even shows a lack of maturity.
In 2009 you outlined your plans for the club at a fans forum. Can you give us an update on how you see our position now against that plan and if it has changed? What is the long-term plan for Newcastle United?
Since that fans forum meeting in 2009, the club is now on a far sounder footing. Financially we are in much better shape, even taking into account the impact of relegation.
We urgently had to address a number of problems and we’ve made great strides in that respect.
Our long-term plan off the field is to make sure that Newcastle United is self-financing, which in turn will allow us to invest in the squad, our youth development system and our facilities, without having to rely on additional financial support from the owner. There aren’t many clubs in England who can hope to achieve that.
It’s obviously our football ambitions that supporters are understandably more interested in. This year we’ve set ourselves the target of a top ten finish in the Premier League.
In the coming years we will continue to build the club sustainably. We have a generous owner, but we don’t have the bottomless pockets that some clubs do. At the moment we cannot compete with the financial strength of the top six.
We are not a club willing to take a reckless approach and permit spending beyond our means, the result of which can be crippling at best and bankruptcy at worst. Instead we have a realistic view of what we can achieve at Newcastle and how quickly we can achieve it.
There’s no doubt that Newcastle have been put on a much sounder footing financially, and most fans understand that, and it’s good to know the official target is a top ten finish this season, which we heard from manager Alan Pardew.
The hope would be that once the club is self sufficient and profitable those profits each year will be reinvested back into the club in terms of transfer money being made available. But it could be I an trying to convince myself on that one, and Derek isn’t saying that in his answer above, although it may be the case.
The club is definitely now much stronger financially, and we just have to hope the club becomes profitable again, and that Ashley will only want to have the club to be self sufficient, so that he doesn’t need to put anything into the club, but also doesn’t take any of the profits out of the club either.
Can you justify why it took seven months to pursue a striker before failing at the eleventh hour to secure a signing?
We understand fans’ frustrations – we share them, as does the manager.
Despite what many may think we didn’t leave it late, in fact we started our search the minute Andy Carroll left. It’s difficult to convey the amount of work that goes into the process of scouting, assessing and analysing players to ensure that anyone brought into the club is of the right age, quality, character and team fit.
We have to be certain that our targets have the strengths and skills that complement the current squad and the balance of the side. Then of course there’s the transfer fees and wages to get right. The fee we received from the sale of Andy Carroll was a windfall, but it’s not money we can afford to waste, so prudence and adherence to our strict transfer policy is important.
The manager and our scouting team identified a number of targets very early in the year and we worked hard to secure those players as soon as possible. There are three parties involved in any deal; the buyer, the seller and the player, and deals can fall down for any number of reasons brought about by any one of those parties. Unfortunately it wasn’t until very late in the window that negotiations broke down.
At that stage we turned our attention to other available players on our shortlist. However we will not compromise our transfer policy by making rash and costly signings that are not right for this club. Many clubs live to regret knee-jerk business decisions conducted in the final few days of the window. We have no interest in players reaching the end of their careers who are offered for extortionate fees and demand long-term contracts and high wages.
The details of our negotiations in the window must remain confidential; suffice to say that despite our best efforts unfortunately we were unable to agree the right deal for an additional striker.
Hardly a good answer, and despite all those justifcations given in the answer above by Llambias, the bottom line is that they failed to get the job done, and Alan Pardew for one was massively let down by the Board.
In business you either get results or all the reasons you didn’t get the results, and the latter is what you see above from LLambias.
A very poor answer.
Public opinion on Tyneside from large sections of fans is that they no longer trust statements coming out of the club after several empty promises. What assurances can you give fans that they can believe what the club tells them?
We don’t feel we’ve made empty promises. Sometimes in these situations it’s impossible to win. If we say nothing we are criticized. If we state our intentions and they are not realised, we are criticised.
Going back to the sale of Andy Carroll, just to reiterate we did not promise to spend all the money from that transfer in the summer. We said that not a penny would be taken out of the club and that is exactly what we have done.
In relation to Andy, it’s worth addressing the issue that upset fans back in January. Yes, we said repeatedly that Andy Carroll was not for sale. On reflection perhaps we should have chosen our words more carefully. We had no intention of selling Andy Carroll.
If I can draw an analogy: My house is not for sale. In fact you could offer me twice what it is worth and it would still not be for sale because it has a personal value to me right now that is greater than twice the price. But if someone knocks on my door with a truly extraordinary figure, a sum which I had never imagined would be offered, then there comes a time when I have to seriously consider it.
The same is true in football. We could not have imagined when we rejected offers for Andy of £25m and £30m that any bid in excess of that would be tabled. And that was our position in January: do we continue stubbornly to refuse to sell at any price, or is the offer now so high that it deserves serious consideration. The fee offered was a deal too good to turn down.
That’s just one side of the equation of course. On the other side is a player, and one I would add that we have the greatest respect for. He could see an incredibly attractive opportunity for him too. Eventually both the club and the player agreed that a deal would be in the best interests of both parties. Was it ideal that the bid came in on the final day of the window? No, but we stand by our decision that it was in the best interests of the club despite it being too late to bring in a replacement. Without Andy, we still achieved a very credible finishing position in the league.
So our statements that Andy was not for sale were not disingenuous. We had no intention of selling Andy, not at £25m, nor at £30m. Because we had never anticipated the vast sum eventually tabled then to all intents and purposes he was not for sale.
If some fans feel the can no longer trust what we say, that’s a shame, but all we can do is continue to tell it as we see it and hope that people will take us at our word.
What Derek is saying there is that every player has their price, and that means if somebody came in for Cheick Tiote for say £25M, he would also be sold.
But there are some clubs who do not sell, even though they get bids for their players which are way above what the players are worth. Tottenham, and Luka Modric are a good recent example of that, and Daniel Levy turned down £40M from Chelsea for him only recently.
It hurt Newcastle fans even more because Andy Carroll was a local lad wearing the number 9 shirt, just like legends Jackie Milburn and Alan Shearer before him, and that’s why it was almost a sin to sell him, even for a massive £35M.
And how long will it take the club to reinvest the £35M the received for Andy?