The Mirror’s Strange Q&A With Mike Ashley


The Mirror have finally managed to get an exclusive interview with Mike Ashley – sort of – although Mike hasn’t said too much – other than a couple of sentences and lets his people answer most of the questions about Sports Direct involvement with Newcastle United and Rangers.

mike ashley glum

Mike Ashley – answers questions – sort of

Here is the full Mirror report – but we thought it would be interesting to publish here the transcript from the Mirror – without comment.

Here is the transcript of exchanges between Mike Ashley and reporters at Sports Direct’s AGM on Wednesday afternoon, regarding Newcastle and Rangers.

Reporter Simon Bird reports that Mike Ashley was extremely uncomfortable during the interview and didn’t want to say too much.

And there is an article in the Telegraph that is reporting that Mike Ashley will sell Newcastle, in order to pursue getting more involved financially with Rangers.

Note – Keith Hellawell is the current Chairman of Sports Direct.

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Question: “I’d like to address a question to Mr Ashley, please. I wonder if he could explain the benefits to Sports Direct in its relationship with Newcastle United and Rangers.

The Mirror points out here there is a silence of 27 seconds (approximately of course).

Answer: “Other than to say than it’s been beneficial to Sports Direct and therefore its shareholders, I don’t think it’s appropriate to comment.”

Question:  “Newcastle have said publicly, for example, that Sports Direct don’t pay for any stadium advertising or perimeter advertising at St James’ Park – and there’s obviously a lot of it – and I wonder what the benefit is to you and whether you could give a rough estimate of what it’s worth in financial terms please.”

Answer: “I think I summed it all up in my previous statement. Those relationships are very beneficial to Sports Direct and its shareholders. And I think that nothing else needs to be said.”

Question: “With due respect, can I then reverse the question. What is the benefit to the relationship they have with Sports Direct for Newcastle United, in which you are the owner, and Rangers, in which you have a shareholding? What is the benefit to those institutions?”

Keith Hellawell intervenes:

“This is really… That isn’t for the Annual General Meeting of this company. The first question was, in relation to what benefit the company gain from that. I think in relation to what Manchester United, sorry Newcastle United, and Rangers gain, you’d have to ask them. There’s no-one from the board of those companies here. It’s not to do with this company.”

Question:  “Well, there is one member on the board (Ashley).”

Another director: “Yes, but this is a Sports Direct Annual General Meeting.”

Question: “I know. I’m aware of that. I was just correcting that error. Can I direct a question to Mr Ashley? Sports Direct now process and profit from the shirt sales and merchandising through Newcastle United, the website and the club shop. Can you explain how much this trade is worth? Is it a significant part of the business to Sports Direct and do you, Newcastle, share in that profit?

Ashley: “I’ll only answer the same answer as I gave before.”

Question:  “Okay. A follow-up question. A Rangers director stated last week that Mr Ashley had bought the naming rights to Ibrox two years ago for £1. First question, is this true? Second question, St James’ Park was once named Sports Direct Arena and the suggestion is the same could happen to Ibrox. Could he comment on that?

Answer:  “I’ll only answer the same answer that I answered before.”

Question:  “Okay, thank you.”

Sports Direct Arena II? Ashley reportedly has naming rights to Scottish giants Rangers’ Ibrox home

Hellawell: “We are really straying beyond the AGM. We’re trying to be helpful.”

Question:  “I would just say the questions are relevant to resolution one in the company accounts and how the company accounts are being boosted by Sports Direct’s very close relationship with Newcastle United and Rangers. That’s why we’re exploring this issue.”

Hellawell: “I think you used the word ‘significant’ didn’t you?”

Question:  “So are you saying that’s an insignificant relationship between the two?”

Hellawell: “If you read the company’s accounts, you can perhaps realise the size of the company and the size of that contribution. That’s all I’ll say.”

Question: “Perhaps I can ask a follow up? Does Mr Ashley have any plans to increase his shareholding in Rangers to the possible benefit of Sports Direct and its shareholders?”

Answer:  indistinguishable to the Mirror.

Question:  “We are talking about a massive company and two of the largest football clubs in Britain. It’s an interesting relationship that’s being forged. As I shareholder I’m exploring the relationship between two very large football institutions and Sports Direct, a very large and successful company. That’s why I’m asking these questions.

Hellawell: “I do understand that and I understand your frustration. Please accept we’re trying to be as helpful as we can, but those are not issues for the Sports Direct board. I think you need to take those up with Newcastle and with… I mean, Mike is an individual but as part of this corporate board now, it’s really not something we can answer.”

Question:  “One not related to football: Tesco, Sainsbury and Morrisons are among the companies who say they don’t use zero hour contracts. Should Sports Direct follow their lead?”

Answer:  “I think I’ve answered that in terms of not being able to talk about our employment policy, other than to say we hold them in the highest regard and believe the success of this company is largely based on the contribution they’ve made and we will look out for them as best we can.”

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51 comments so far

  • firebug666

    Sep 11, 2014 at 12:06 AM

    Comment #1

    Might be a little late with this one ED, were already gathering up the pitchforks and torches.

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  • Small World

    Sep 11, 2014 at 12:11 AM

    Comment #2

    The club is up for sale – no doubt in my eyes.

    To an investor, our club is worth more than other clubs of similar stature. They don’t make a profit, we now make a cool £50million a year

    The club doesn’t need turning around (in the financial sense), Ashley has done it making the only profits ever in our history and one of the few profitable teams in the league.

    He hasn’t taken a penny out and it could easily sell at £230 mill though I’d expect maybe more. As an investor would you be willing to spend £230 million on something which now generates £50 million year profits?

    The news story will only in be the Telegraph as it has been leaked by the club. Go figure how PR really works..

    Problem with all of this, it is simple investment – not rocket science or football for that matter. Most of us would love to see a well funded team which competed in spending and performance of other clubs. Folks who may be inclined to spend £230million+ might see it another way.

    He won’t be picky who he sells too. Just as Hall & Shep weren’t. Just take the money and run.

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  • Tooooon

    Sep 11, 2014 at 12:15 AM

    Comment #3

    It’s strange how Ed rarely expresses his opinion on his blog. This website is more like nufcnews.com instead of blog.

    Go on Ed, express yourself!

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  • StuW

    Sep 11, 2014 at 12:23 AM

    Comment #4

    £230m…..somebody with that spare change lying around please get rid of MA and AP, you’ll be eternally loved by us Toon

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  • StuW

    Sep 11, 2014 at 12:25 AM

    Comment #5

    @small world

    The profit margins alone make it a very decent business model for any potential investors. Any cash injection(I live in hope) would be great, not just from. Sales

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  • manxpie

    Sep 11, 2014 at 1:24 AM

    Comment #6

    there you go so where is the glossy mikeashleyout website?

    oh yeah there isn’t 1 theres just the sack the manager 1

    but hey we all know the next manager that this man hires will bring us up to where we belong don’t we! 🙂

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  • Mister Tuff

    Sep 11, 2014 at 1:55 AM

    Comment #7

    snore zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz!

    Yawn zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz !

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  • toonicle

    Sep 11, 2014 at 2:17 AM

    Comment #8

    Wow, weird. I suppose free advertising is Indeed very beneficial to the company. Sure seems to me that he has no interest in our club so here’s hoping it sells soon.

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  • jimmysmith

    Sep 11, 2014 at 2:20 AM

    Comment #9

    Despite being extremely frustrated with Ashley’s threadbare financial support of the club over the years, and some truly bizarre decisions, I’ve never actually wanted him out apart from the period when the ground was renamed. Unforgivable. I just wanted him to invest more in the side, and always felt if he’d allowed even a 10% larger outlay on players and wages that would have brought greater success for us and returns for him.

    It would seem extremely ironic if he sold now, just when the club could do exactly that, and more, quite sustainably, out of its own earnings. Its hard to believe of course and probably not at all true, but frankly if it does happen, it would likely ultimately be seen as a massive missed opportunity for the club. He’s worth 4 billion quid, he could make us into anything he wanted.

    We know he won’t do that though, for his own reasons, even so, I like the Ashley model we have in principle, but it’s greatest flaw is in not giving back enough when it could afford too and in doing so alienating the fan base. However, if he were to leave the club in decent shape, to a responsible owner, which in itself would be doubtful, his legacy would be better than most. You’d have to just hope it was to someone with some real integrity or atleast a willingness to reinvest and develop the club.

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  • Pottz

    Sep 11, 2014 at 6:08 AM

    Comment #10

    Funny how Ashley always seems to employ muppets who can’t get names right.

    Kinnear with Insomnia
    Pardew with Houghton
    And now this character Hellawell calling us Manchester United!!

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  • Ethiotoon

    Sep 11, 2014 at 6:16 AM

    Comment #11

    why do people care what Mikey is doing ??
    we should care about matters on the pitch!

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  • WestOzMag

    Sep 11, 2014 at 6:19 AM

    Comment #12

    Why do we care what Mike is doing you ask? I care because he is the owner and he can do what he pleases which in turn effects me me my decisions about wether I want to be a part of this mess.

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  • WestOzMag

    Sep 11, 2014 at 6:24 AM

    Comment #13

    Jimmy- im not sure if Abramovich at chelsea has any real integrity but if somebody comes in with cash to spend like he does then im happy.

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  • Lilongwe Geordie

    Sep 11, 2014 at 6:29 AM

    Comment #14

    The ‘interview’ doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know really. Anyone with a vague idea of how advertising works could tell you that. Most new that money from merchandise was being redirected, again, only those who didn’t want to look or listen didn’t know that.

    As for us being up for sale, I think it was Mark Douglas of the Journal who wrote a good piece on football club sales at the start of the summer. He argued that until the Prem dishes out its FFP punishments then many of the super rich who want a play thing will wait to see what happens. Why would they buy a club if they are to be punished for over investment.

    Villa has been up for sale all summer, for a shite sight less, and no interest. They are a big club historically, and have a sizeable fan base. Everton have been available for a couple of years supposedly as well.

    One bonus we have is that we have made profit last 2 years, and when aggregated for the financials (based on a 3 year period) a new owner would be able to overspend in the first year of ownership.

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  • Ethiotoon

    Sep 11, 2014 at 6:35 AM

    Comment #15

    westoz..what mess are you talking about??

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  • Lilongwe Geordie

    Sep 11, 2014 at 6:35 AM

    Comment #16

    Ethio,
    It matters who owns us as it will determine our progression both on and off the field. Our merchandising revenue has fallen during his tenure, our advertising revenue has fallen yet he wants us to ‘wipe our nose’ and be self sufficient. That is all good and well, but if he or his employees are failing to allow us to maximise our revenues, or spend our own profits then this club will stagnate in mid table.

    Even if a new owner wanted us to be self sufficient, then we would have still had an extra £60million to spend minus the cost of floodlights and a big screen. This, if invested well, could easily have us pushing Spurs, Everton and this season Man U. We could even have more if the owner helped the club maximise all its revenue streams.

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  • sparky55

    Sep 11, 2014 at 6:58 AM

    Comment #17

    LILONGWE

    Advertising income has fallen because he wants the sole focus of any TV air time to be on Sports Direct….so no room for anyone else…he only bought the club to promote the brand and that still is his main reason for investment.

    He can’t get that level of advertising anywhere else without it costing him millions and millions and millions.

    The cost of transfers and the ever revolving door of players in and out is just like the cost of fines for malpractice by banks…it’s just an operating expense and in essence a ‘operating expense’.

    He definitely wants to sell so all he’s doing at the minute is trousering significant profits so when he does sell, it’ll be at that point in time when all his ‘loans’ have been repaid and his cost of purchase has been recouped so all the proceeds from the sale will in fact be profit.

    This guy is a business genius and you gotta hand it to him…he’s granite and he’s has balls the size of rhino’s even if his dick (as reported on this several on several occasions) is of gnat proportions.

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  • Jail for Ashley

    Sep 11, 2014 at 7:03 AM

    Comment #18

    Ethitoon,
    The club is about to witness some of the most ugly scenes in recent history, we have a manager with possibly one of the worst statistical records of all time still with six years of a contract to run, we have an owner who has a strong dislike for us with absolutely no intention to bring success, apart from a few international players, who are all up for sale, tell me what’s the club got going for it at the moment.

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  • Lilongwe Geordie

    Sep 11, 2014 at 7:09 AM

    Comment #19

    Sparky,
    I agree, his primary interest at this club is promoting SD. He/his advisors were honest enough about that from the outset, as that is what they told Sir John was the driving force behind the purchase.

    I’m not entirely sure he wants to sell just yet. As you say he is a business genius. He only recently opened in OZ and NZ with a business partnership. 12-24 months ago he partnered with a Chinese firm, neither of those will have yet hit saturation point in terms of the marketing presence, and SJP will continue to provide that.

    I also imagine that he had inside info on the House of Fraser sale to China, and he will use his 11% holding there to boost SD’s presence, either within Beattie’s and HoF, or sell his holding as part of an exchange to increase SD’s presence in China. Again, any deal like that is likely to require the continued use of Premier league matches for advertising.

    Regardless of Rangers status and history in the game, advertising there has a nominal impact in comparison.

    On the profits, I doubt he is taking them out at the moment. I think the £230million figure is probably on the low side, I’d imagine closer to £270-300 would be his current asking price. I’m not to sure on all the ins and outs of FFP, but if he clawed back the loan from profits, then the club would be less able to spend in the following year which makes it less attractive as a prospect for buying a team.

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  • Lilongwe Geordie

    Sep 11, 2014 at 7:12 AM

    Comment #20

    Jail,
    6 years left on his contract….. disgraceful.

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  • Jail for Ashley

    Sep 11, 2014 at 7:12 AM

    Comment #21

    Sparky55,
    Why should we hand it to him, you seem like you also admire him, why not hand it to him and say well done Mikey, you showed ’em by sticking with Pardew, some people admired Thatcher, as I watched the decline in my area as the shops and local businesses closed as thousands were made unemployed when she closed the pit, I don’t think I’ll ever ‘hand it to her’ for standing up to those Geordies, she described the North East as the arm pit of Britain, she has the same contempt for us as your business genius Sparky.

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  • Lilongwe Geordie

    Sep 11, 2014 at 7:12 AM

    Comment #22

    to China should be to the chinese

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  • Lilongwe Geordie

    Sep 11, 2014 at 7:15 AM

    Comment #23

    Still, while I doubt it is for sale, we can I’ve in hope!! What is Graham Wiley worth these days??

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  • Lilongwe Geordie

    Sep 11, 2014 at 7:16 AM

    Comment #24

    *We can live in hope…. I think I may give up until I get back to the office, fat fingers and phone keyboard don’t seem to be working for me today.

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  • Jail for Ashley

    Sep 11, 2014 at 7:21 AM

    Comment #25

    Lil,
    It just doesn’t make financial sense for him to sell while as you say, he has all these untapped markets to maximise, hopefully this Pardew campaign might achieve something better on the field, if he does hire another complete duffer maybe it will convince people like Sparky and Slank and those others who think he is doing a great job that he has no intention of success.

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  • Slank

    Sep 11, 2014 at 7:26 AM

    Comment #26

    Small World @ 2

    ‘To an investor, our club is worth more than other clubs of similar stature’.

    It’s like a house, it’s worth what someone is prepared to pay.

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  • Toon-Prodigy

    Sep 11, 2014 at 7:26 AM

    Comment #27

    I am buzzing there is reports of a sale. This hopefully is the begining of the end one hopes for Mike Ashley at NUFC.

    Then we will see some proper changes rather than getting rid of one inept manager for another. Mike Ashley would of never hired anyone of quality or who was a stranger to him either. He is running out of options to keep this rollercoaster going. He has no more friends in football hopefully.

    Pardew is becoming increasingly under pressure with the lack of depth and quality brought in through only sales this past window as usual. And Pardew dosn’t have the quality to perform the task of getting players to play above their level also.

    Please let this all be true!!!

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  • Jail for Ashley

    Sep 11, 2014 at 7:29 AM

    Comment #28

    TP,
    All those that keep pointing out what a great window it was and the money spent, well the Guardian points out that tge the figure is misleading due to the two barren windows before it.

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  • Slank

    Sep 11, 2014 at 7:30 AM

    Comment #29

    Lil

    ‘I also imagine that he had inside info on the House of Fraser sale to China..’

    No, Sir Tom Hunter sold his 11% stake to Ashley.

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  • sparky55

    Sep 11, 2014 at 7:32 AM

    Comment #30

    jail

    I do admire his business acumen…but I absolutely hate the tw@t for what he’s done to our club and the black cloud he’s left over the Geordie nation since he took control.

    No-one has been more vocal in getting rid of the b@ST@RD and his mutant sidekick over the last 4 years so please don’t attempt to blur the lines…he’s a proper cnut and I sincerely hope his next shit is a hedgehog

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  • Lilongwe Geordie

    Sep 11, 2014 at 7:32 AM

    Comment #31

    Jail,
    I don’t think Sparky is in any way a fan of Ashley. I think he was just saying it how he sees it, not praising him. It is difficult to argue Ashley’s business successes, the ethics and legality of some of it on the other hand. Certainly nothing classy about him, but what can you expect from a Chelsea fan!

    In the same way I don’t see Pardew up for the chop, I don’t see Ashley wanting to sell just yet. Unfortunately.

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  • Average_Contents

    Sep 11, 2014 at 7:33 AM

    Comment #32

    Parsnip doesn’t have the necessary tools to get a footballer to play full stop toon-prodigy 😉

    And as for his cash guzzling leech of a boss well, we all know what he’s interested in….

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  • Santon03

    Sep 11, 2014 at 7:34 AM

    Comment #33

    It’s the nature of investment, trying to get as much profit as possible from your investment. If you were Ashley, you would do the same thing. It’s business not charity. Everyone here expecting profit from whatever investments they are in. This isn’t a toy for MA, this is his business investment, he is not Abramovic or sheikh who thinks football club is a hobby or a toy. If it’s a toy, then nobody cares if the club losing money spending more than they make, the problem is if the owner getting tired with the old toys or hobby.
    If you are expecting NUFC to be dealt as a toy or hobby then MA is definitely the wrong owner, if it’s a company or business investment then MA is the right kind of owner.
    Which one are you?

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  • Santon03

    Sep 11, 2014 at 7:36 AM

    Comment #34

    we already have 2 versions of owner, Shepperd & Hall as hoby or toy and MA as business company.

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  • Lilongwe Geordie

    Sep 11, 2014 at 7:36 AM

    Comment #35

    Slank,
    And?? Why would that make any difference to inside info? Sir Tom Hunter had fallen out with other shareholders, and I’m sure he would have been privy to such information. Who better to sell your shares to as a F*£k You then an obnoxious and odious character that is more than happy to get his hands dirty in a power struggle?

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  • LGFUAD21

    Sep 11, 2014 at 7:37 AM

    Comment #36

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/teams/newcastle-united/11088540/Newcastle-United-for-sale-as-Mike-Ashley-eyes-Rangers.html

    Here we go guys

    To all those going on asking where the money went. Newcastle reported profits of £10m last year.

    Don’t get me wrong I’d love to see the back of pardew and Ashley but so many of you sound like morons when you bring up the finances.

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  • firebug666

    Sep 11, 2014 at 7:41 AM

    Comment #37

    Mike Ashley is not good for our club. He (not SD) bought the naming rights for Rangers for just £1. He will now sell that when the time is right to SD for millions.

    What makes anyone think he is not doing the same with all the assets at Newcastle. He has already filched the land and sold it for himself, the advertising fiasco could have brought us 5-6 quality players over the years.

    There is nothing good about this man, there is no give and take with him….Just take take take.

    The only way to get at Ashley is to get at his other businesses, hit him where it hurts….in the pocket.

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  • Lilongwe Geordie

    Sep 11, 2014 at 7:42 AM

    Comment #38

    Santon,
    But the club stated that it would be allowed to spend what it makes. I think next financials we will see that Ashley has started drawing a wage from the club since taking a position on the board. There was to be no further investment.

    All that is fine with me, I have no problems with a sustainable club, but when the club aren’t allowed to maximise it’s business interests and commercial revenue due to a third party being given beneficial treatment (one that legally has zero to do with the club) then it is fair to say that the club is being exploited.

    If you think that him using the club to benefit his other investments is a good thing, at the detriment to the clubs income and subsequently potential expenditure, then by all means keep backing him. Most people realise that this isn’t of any benefit to the club.

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  • Slank

    Sep 11, 2014 at 7:42 AM

    Comment #39

    Lil @ 16

    Yes, it matters who owns the club but possibly only in the sense of how much income the club can generate itself.

    If the club continues to adhere to the European FFP rules it restricts the new owner from putting his own money into the club, unless he can find a way around the rules without anyone spotting it which would appear unlikely.

    The more self generated income the more that can be spent on transfers. ManU have recently spent a considerable amount on player transfers but it is well within the European FFP rules because of the massive revenue the club generates.

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  • Toon-Prodigy

    Sep 11, 2014 at 7:43 AM

    Comment #40

    Jail,

    It’s always misleading when it comes to Mike Ashley spending the clubs money.. I can’t remember where the good of the football team was ever put first? When we have activley tried to build on any good? Always been about lowering the wage bill and reaping the profits of future sales. What a disgraceful way to run a club, with those agendas first and foremost.

    What a wasteful and pathetic 7 years it has been, through his own selfish agenda of free advertising.

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