Newcastle United fan group urge Mike Ashley to sell up after 'kick in the teeth' for supporters

Newcastle United fan group Toon For Change have issued a statement tearing into owner Mike Ashley after the club’s first ‘sell-out’ of the season.

The first 52,000-plus crowd of the 2019/20 campaign oversaw the 2-1 home loss to Everton. That attendance was boosted by a club giveaway of around 10,000 free tickets to season ticket holders.

This has prompted Toon For Change to release a statement criticising the short-termism of the Magpies’ owner.

“This season’s low attendances are a result of thousands of fans making the painful decision in the summer to not attend matches at St James’ until Mike Ashley sells the club,” said Joe Moore, of Toon For Change.

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - JANUARY 29: Newcastle United fans hold up protest banners prior to the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Manchester City at St. James Park on January 29, 2019 in Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

“The club’s move to give away 10,000 free half-season tickets is a cynical attempt to direct attention from the fact that fans are boycotting the stadium, but also a kick in the teeth for season ticket holders that have seen the price of their tickets rise 25 per cent across the last two seasons. It’s not an act of charity, it’s an act of desperation.

“Giving away thousands of season tickets free of charge is completely unsustainable. Will the club give away season tickets in the summer? Should season tickets bother renewing, or should they just wait for what could now be the inevitability of the club dishing them out to fans for free at the end of this season?

“The move is a short-term sticking plaster to save face for a long-term problem, and that problem is Mike Ashley. It’s time for him to sell our club to a party that sees our fans for what we are – the heart and soul of our football club – not just a cash cow.”

As part of their statement the group released results of research into attendance statistics over the last 20 years.

The analysis revealed attendances at the opening 10 competitive games of this season were the lowest for a Premier League season since St James’s Park was expanded from a 36,619 to 52,354.

The statement reads: “The average attendances for the first competitive 10 matches of this season fell to a concerning 43,718, compared to the previous low of 44,673 during the 2010/11 Premier League season. Before this season, the average attendance had not been as low after 10 games since St James’ Park was a 36,619 capacity stadium in the 1999/2000 Premiership season.”

Group spokesman Moore admits that while the boycott was not as large-scale as the movement hoped, the club giveaway proves how much those who stayed away hurt Ashley.

He continued: “The analysis we have completed is testament to the belief that the club has gone backwards under Ashley. The idea of 10,000 empty seats week in, week out at St James’ at any point during the Premiership/Premier League era, before Ashley took control of our club would have been unthinkable. The relationship between the club’s ownership and fans of our football club are beyond rock-bottom, there quite simply is no relationship.“If there’s something that we can take from the last few months, it’s that the boycott, albeit not as large-scale as we might have hoped, has definitely hurt Ashley.”