Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley's unfortunate link to GAA players' association

Telegraph Sport: where the debate starts

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley owns a website designed to get Gaelic footballers and hurlers cheap boots
Newcastle owner Mike Ashley owns a website designed to get Gaelic footballers and hurlers cheap boots

Newcastle United. A club rooted in the community with ties and bonds that only one-club cities could ever appreciate.

Part sporting institution, part long-running comedy show. Can you remember Freddie Shepherd getting caught up in a scandal when he proclaimed all the girls in Newcastle to be "dogs"? Classy character.

Then, we have Mike Ashley, current owner. Let's face it, Ashley is nowhere near the level of some that have held positions of high office in English clubs, but he has a flair for actions that sully and mar the face of sport.

Recruiting the short-term cash loan company Wonga as sponsor was crass. Attempting to change the name of St James' Park was ghastly.

And still the Gaelic Players' Association continue their unfortunate association with Ashley. Gaelicboots.com was apparently dreamed up to get Gaelic footballers and hurlers boots on the cheap, and unsurprisingly they stayed very quiet about the fact it was merely Ashley's Sports Direct company, albeit with a website facelift.

You might recall that Mayo centre-back Donal Vaughan had some interesting views to share on that development last summer, and how GAA clubs depend on the generous support of local businesses, not least sports shops.

As the manager of his family shoe shop, he spoke of falling trade since the emergence of this joint deal. It was revealed in March that Ashley was the main beneficiary.

Mike Ashley does not put money into any local communities here, nor does he sponsor the jerseys of your local Gaelic football or hurling club.

So why are the GPA still locked into this peculiar deal?

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