A Newcastle United supporter group have announced plans to protest against Mike Ashley’s running of their football club outside a popular Sports Direct store in the city centre, ahead of the team's first game of the season.
The Magpie Group have encouraged fans to 'stand united' against owner Mike Ashley, who has just purchased troubled House of Fraser for £90 million, the day after transfer deadline day and day prior to the start of the season.
Crowds are urged to gather outside the popular Northumberland Street branch of Sports Direct, in the hours ahead of the first game of the season at St James' Park against Tottenham Hotspur.
The announcement claimed, 'A peaceful protest will take place outside of the Northumberland Street branch of Sports Direct (Newcastle North) on Saturday 11th August at 11am, it is expected to last until 11.30am.'
The group then say, the crowd's full attention will turn to support Rafa Benítez and the team.
The Magpie Group released the following statement: With Newcastle United’s opening game of the 2018/19 Premier League season against Tottenham Hotspur kicking-off at 12.30pm, supporters are strongly encouraged to attend in order to help create an audible and visible display of dissatisfaction with Mike Ashley.
This is just the first of what the Magpie Group envisage to be many protests against Mike Ashley and his Sports Direct chain. Protest action will not cease and will likely escalate until Mike Ashley sells Newcastle United Football Club to a fit and proper person.
– THE MAGPIE GROUP
Representatives of the Magpie Group say that they will be present in high-visibility jackets to lead proceedings and provide protest materials. They have assured there will be no entry into the Sports Direct store, and all relevant authorities have been informed of the group’s plans.
A Newcastle United fan coalition have called for supporters to boycott St James’ Park this season in protest against Mike Ashley and the way the club is run.
In a new statement released jointly by the Magpie Group, the Ashley Out group, If Rafa Goes We Go and online sites NUFC360 and Empty For Ashley, they say supporters “will no longer stand idly by” against what it calls “disrespect” towards the city and an “obsessed fanbase”. The group will mobilise around the tag “Boycott Arsenal” and “Boycott St James’ Park” and say their initial aim to “mobilise supporters to boycott the Arsenal game”. The intention is to “send a message” to both United and the Premier League by not attending fixtures. The campaign say they are working on city centre pub deals to ensure fans can still have a match day experience while making their point. The Empty for Ashley Twitter account has accrued over 3,000 followers but the problem for supporters has always been translating anger into anything sustained or visible to make their point. Periodic flashes of anger at the club have not tended to hurt attendances noticeably.
But the new group claim this can be different and there have been reports of fans cancelling season tickets in protest against this summer’s depressing developments. With the club unlikely to release season ticket numbers, it will be difficult to gauge the exact numbers until the first game of the season but anger is growing at the way the club's summer has progressed.
Here is the statement in full :
“Dear supporters of Newcastle United Football Club,
If you go to the match this season you are not in the wrong; Mike Ashley is.
If you boycott televised games you are not in the wrong; Mike Ashley is.
If you boycott the Arsenal game and St. James Park for the rest of the season you are not in the wrong; Mike Ashley is.
Ashley is wrong for this club and he is wrong if he thinks he has a future here. He does not give or build, he only knows how to take and throw his weight around. His bottom-line approach will see this club fail. Perhaps not this season nor the next but we will do nothing except circle the bowl and it will be slow, painful and totally needless.
What we need is a message. Not just to Ashley but also to the Premier League and football as a whole, that this man is toxic. Your brand will be tarnished and your product degraded.
The ‘best league in the world’ seeming tolerant of a club existing solely to promote one of the country’s most loathed brands. We need him gone from our club.
Many will say it’s impossible to achieve, that he doesn’t care what we do or say or think but what is it we’ve criticised Ashley for most? A lack of ambition. Now it’s time we
become the counterweight - the ultimate display of ambition. Wor flags set records, just look what our fans are capable of.
Each of us wants to be stood shoulder to shoulder, United in voice for our club so let’s get ambitious. Let’s change the narrative. Let’s show what can happen when you disrespect a city, a community, a passionate, obsessed fanbase.
To this end, we call on all NUFC supporters to show the world that we will not take it lying down, that we will no longer stand idly by. The first step is to boycott the Arsenal game...