Mike Ashley cannot win for trying. Over the last couple of years he has moved into the background at Newcastle United and let Alan Pardew and his staff run the football side of the club. The results have been terrific, and recently Ashley rewarded Pardew for his efforts, buy giving him and his staff new eight-year contracts. A decision that was met with applause by the Toon Army.
But once again the media spotlight is on Newcastle United for the wrong reasons as Ashley has signed payday loan company Wonga as the club’s new shirt and stadium sponsor in a deal worth an estimated £30 million over four years.
Even before the deal was announced, it was causing controversy as Football Association general secretary Alex Horne expressed some concern that the deal was with a loan company. Horne told BBC Radio 5 live’s Breakfast:
“We are talking to the leagues about it, but on the one hand it’s a legislative issue. If these companies are charging the wrong rates of interest then legislation should help us out. The leagues have clear rules about certain inappropriate advertising for children.
“We are talking to the leagues on Friday about it. If you consider it as in the category of things that are inappropriate for children like gambling and alcohol, it feels like it is in that category to me.”
Does anyone else find it the height of hypocrisy for the secretary of the FA to be saying that Wonga is a bad sponsor as it is inappropriate for children, yet the FA sold the naming right to the the FA Cup to Budweiser?
Where was the outrage when Wonga signed its sponsorship deals with Scottish Premier League side Hearts and Championship team Blackpool? There was none.
You can make the case that Wonga’s business practices are predatory and that from a social aspect they should not be allowed to sponsor top class football. But if you do that, what about the beer and gambling companies whose names are emblazoned across the front of other Premier League clubs? Surely they should face the same scrutiny as Wonga?