It seems that it may be utterly appropriate that Newcastle United’s players have ‘Northern Rock’ [opens in pdf] emblazoned across their chests. According to the sports journalist David Conn, the way the clubs has been run is a mirror for our times:
Newcastle United’s boom had the lot: borrowing, increased ticket prices and mass replica shirt buying which the fans often paid for with credit cards. There was a failure, [Bobby] Robson complained, to invest adequately in long-term infrastructure like the academy and training facilities. Directors’ pay ballooned, with thumping annual bonuses for Freddy Shepherd, who became the chairman, and Sir John’s son, Douglas, who became a tax exile. In his final year, to June 2007, Douglas was paid £448,654 in salary and a £1.2m pay-off for resigning, all via a Newcastle United company registered in Gibraltar.
And apparently Mike Ashley was so keen to buy that he didn’t bother doing a proper due diligence – only to discover almost immediately that there was debt everywhere, as Conn also explains. You couldn’t make it up.