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Newcastle fans protest against Mike Ashley outside Sports Direct store

Newcastle United fans protested against Mike Ashley ahead of this afternoon's home game against Chelsea.

Supporters gathered outside the Sports Direct store on Northumberland Street to repeat their calls for owner Ashley to sell up.

The protest was organised by the Magpie Group, which wrote an open letter to Ashley last month.

Fans chanted against Ashley, who put the club up for sale last year.

The billionaire, the founder and majority shareholder of the Sports Direct retail chain, has repeatedly failed to back United manager Rafa Benitez in the transfer market.

Newcastle made a profit of more than £20million in this summer's transfer window.

Newcastle fans outside Sports Direct.

Newcastle fans outside Sports Direct.

Asked about the planned protest yesterday, Benitez said he had "sympathy" for supporters.

“I said after we finished the transfer window finished, we have to concentrate on that," said Benitez.

"But I have a lot of sympathy for our fans, because they are really good. They know the city, they know club. They know the North East and how well you can live here, they know all these things.

“They would like to see the club do things in one way.

"What I would say is just be sure that when you go to the stadium, you support the team because it's the only way for us to be stronger.

True Faith, Ashley Out, NUFC Fans United, #IfRafaGoesWeGo, the Newcastle United Supporters Trust and Wor Flags are all involved in The Magpie Group, whose name pays homage to the protest group of the late 1980s and early 1990s.