Chairman Mike: Why is Mike Ashley a villain?

On Friday 6 March a vote at Glasgow Rangers Football Club’s AGM defeated millionaire Mike Ashley’s attempts to assert more influence at Ibrox.

If Newcastle United FC fans could have their say in a ballot for their club’s leadership, currently owned and chaired by Ashley, it is hard to imagine the result differing from the one he faced north of the border.

Despite news this week that Newcastle United has recorded financial profits for the fourth year running not everything at the club is as it seems.

Revenue from media rights may be growing but over the past year match-day revenue, including tickets and hospitality, dropped by £1.9million and pressure from fans upon the club’s management has intensified this season.

Heading up a Premier League club and multi-million-earning retail outlet like Sports Direct cannot be easy but Ashley doesn’t seem to make life easier.

Among accusations levelled against him by Newcastle fans, former players and ex-board directors alike is that he’s only in it for the money.

The media has exposed Sport Direct’s employment of 78% of its workforce on zero-hour contracts, and politicians have been angered by his refusal to attend parliamentary committees to explain himself.

After years of big spending and little reward on Tyneside under previous ownership, Ashley has secured more stability and better value for money on the transfer market albeit at the detriment to the club’s competitive ambitions and patience of fans.

In any working or sporting environment, not everyone will like their leader, their boss or owner but they should at least respect them and trust the decisions they make.

Obviously, Ashley’s motivations at Sports Direct surround profit generation, but whatever they are at Newcastle this same bullish approach and unwillingness to listen to others provides an interesting example of how not to go about things.

Apparently reluctant to invest in players at Newcastle and in employees at Sports Direct, in the eyes of football fans, the media and politicians Mike Ashley is a classic villain. Could they all be wrong?

About Connor Daly

Connor is Editor of Northern Slant. His interests include politics, human rights, current affairs and communications.