Exploding the Keith Bishop myth at Newcastle United

Keith Bishop was back in the news on Tyneside this week – over a tweet.
Keith Bishop, far left, Mike Ashley and Lee Charnley.Keith Bishop, far left, Mike Ashley and Lee Charnley.
Keith Bishop, far left, Mike Ashley and Lee Charnley.

Bishop’s PR firm, Keith Bishop Associates, returned to Twitter after a 10-month sabbatical.

“It's been almost a year, but we're back,” the firm cheerfully tweeted. “With new clients and new insights, we're ready to join the #twitter conversation.”

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The conversation, however, didn’t last long. The @KBA__Agency Twitter account, which has 1,220 followers at the time of writing, was soon protected.

Sports Direct founder and majority shareholder Mike Ashley.Sports Direct founder and majority shareholder Mike Ashley.
Sports Direct founder and majority shareholder Mike Ashley.

So what’s this got to do with Newcastle United?

Bishop is a close associate of Mike Ashley, the club’s owner. His agency works with Sports Direct, Ashley’s retail firm, as well as the club. And some fans, desperate for a change in ownership at St James’s Park, have lashed out online at Bishop’s agency, which, according to its website, delivers “PR with a punch”.

I won’t excuse any foul and absusive language on social media, but the frustration – and anger – among supporters is understandable given the paralysis at the club.

A popular view on social media is that Bishop is somehow a spin doctor for Ashley, who is involved in a stand-off with manager Rafa Benitez over a new deal at the club, the subject of a takeover bid from the Bin Zayed Group.

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That’s not the case on Tyneside, though many of the journalists covering the club have spoken to Bishop, who, curiously, travelled up from London to attend Benitez’s press conferences the season before last. Bishop, however, didn’t usually say much more than hello to journalists.

He was also in Dublin in 2017 for the opening of a new Sports Direct branch, which was attended by United players.

Bishop, seemingly Ashley’s eyes and ears, didn’t attend any pressers last season, though was regularly seen at St James’s Park, where he watched Premier League games with managing director Lee Charnley.

Bishop isn’t someone who briefs North East-based reporters, though there's a perception online that he’s behind certain stories.

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That said, it would be helpful if he was able to explain Ashley’s thinking – and at least attempt to defend some of his actions.

That, surely, would be better PR, right?