By 90Min
August 05, 2018

Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley has been a frustrating figure at the club for years now, keeping any potential funds to improve the team and training facilities under unnecessary lock and key.

As much as Benitez slates him and his inaction in post-match press conferences, and fans and journalists alike express their discontent, Ashley notoriously ignores their complaints and frustrations.

However, are there any meaningful actions Newcastle fans can take this coming season?

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Yes, possibly.

Even if nothing positive comes of it in the end, it will be made abundantly clear for the owner exactly where the fans' loyalties lie.

The fans stand with manager Rafa Benitez and the prospect of success and competitiveness returning to Newcastle, not with a profits-first owner happy to leave his team to scrape and survive on the pitch in every match.

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There is a precedent of fans forcing a change with Ashley too.

The Sports Direct business magnate has been forced out of a club in recent times by fans, during his spell as a major shareholder at Rangers Football Club in Scotland.

There the 53-year-old bought an 8.9% stake in the Scottish club in 2012, but after several years of fan discontent over the partial ownership from the businessman he was forced to sell them on in early 2017.

His stakes in the club were divided among two sellers, with 4.46% going to fan group Club 1872 - taking their total stake in Rangers to 10.71% - while the rest was sold to a Hong Kong investment group.

There had been ongoing troubles at Rangers during Ashley's part-tenure, including a bitter and ongoing battle with chairman Dave King over merchandising deals.

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To help force along Ashley's exit, Rangers fans united outside the club in large and vocal protests. Fans joined forces as a united, angry voice against the Sports Direct man's involvement in their club - and ultimately got their wish to see him depart, helped along by strict rules governing ownership of more than one club.

However, with Newcastle, the situation is far more difficult than it was at Rangers.

With the Tyneside club, Ashley is the owner - not just a shareholder - and so it becomes much more difficult to force him from his throne.

Even if fans united to take some of the club's financial burden, as they did at Rangers, it would still require significant external backing and funding from wealthy individuals to prise the whole club away from Ashley.

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Then there remains the question of just how much that kind of ownership structure could fund a club in the Premier League - could they manage to produce any more funding and backing than is the current case under Ashley?

He wouldn't go quietly, either. Ashley is more than comfortable with dragging issues through the court systems, even to the detriment of the clubs he supposedly has interests in.

Still his bitter merchandising battle with Rangers rumbles on, even despite Ashley's exit from the club. A High Court battle earlier this summer between the two parties saw the Scottish club advised against selling their new kit to fans.


Truthfully, the only way there is an exit for Mike Ashley to Newcastle would be through selling the club - something he has said he is open to doing.

The sticking point is that Ashley is demanding a very high valuation for the club (£400m), which appears to be putting off potential investors.

Now, fans could flood the stadium to scream and shout about Ashley. Protests could easily break out once again, with the old 'Ashley Out' campaigns rearing their heads once more. It would be easy to turn the stadium into a toxic atmosphere to demonstrate the frustration and anger towards the ownership.

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It would be fully justified, but in the long-run it doesn't help the club.

Ashley is hardly present at St. James' Park, and given he's gone through the whole rigmarole unfazed several times already, he isn't going to be bothered what fans are saying.

He's unwilling to invest in the club, happy to suggest the club simply 'can't compete' with sides that, quite frankly, it could and absolutely should be able to compete with, and he's not going to change that tune any time soon just because fans start chanting against him once again. 

Similarly, boycotting the ground doesn't make a difference to him.

He already has the money from season ticket holders, and so long as the profits roll in he's not going to be overly concerned by a more empty stadium.

One of Newcastle's greatest features is the loyal and vast fan base. Even as some fans protest, there are plenty that will flood to the game to watch their team.

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No, instead, the best - and possibly the only course of action - for fans to take up against Ashley that would have meaningful change is to be present at every game, to roar on the team and demonstrate to any potential investors or owners watching exactly why they should buy the club off Ashley.

Fighting Ashley won't solve the problem. Instead, the fans' efforts should be directing their efforts towards driving the players forward on the pitch and convincing someone else watching just how incredible an investment in Newcastle could be for them.

Selling the club is the Magpies' only escape from Ashley's clutches, and so it falls on the fans to make sure the club is visibly worth the ludicrous value the owner is demanding.

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