Belfast Telegraph

Fans protest against Ashley

Hundreds of Newcastle fans have joined a march to protest against the way in which owner Mike Ashley is running the club.

The demonstration, organised by the Time 4 Change group, saw several hundred supporters parade through the city's streets and past St James' Park ahead of Saturday afternoon's Barclays Premier League clash with Liverpool.

Ashley has enjoyed an uneasy relationship with fans for much of his time at the helm with the decision to rename the stadium, the controversial sponsorship deal with payday loans company Wonga and the appointment of director of football Joe Kinnear the most recent flashpoints.

One of the main issues raised during the protest was the club's perceived lack of ambition - they signed only one senior player during the summer transfer window, Loic Remy, and that was a loan deal.

However, that particular issue, and specifically the Wonga deal, was addressed by Kinnear in his programme notes.

He said: "The chasm that exists between the league's six most commercially powerful clubs and the rest is significant and growing ever wider.

"Even putting the strongest four performers to one side, clubs like ours really have to over-perform in all areas in order to compete season after season with the likes of Liverpool and Spurs.

"Their last published accounts show turnovers of £169million and £144million respectively, compared with our £93million.

"While that gap is striking enough, it is in respect of commercial turnover where the real gulf is evident.

"Liverpool reported a commercial turnover for 2011-12 of £64million while Spurs reported £53million. Ours, in contrast, was just shy of £14million, increasing to £17million for 2012-13.

"We cannot, at this time, compete commercially with the very biggest global brands in football because the hugely lucrative (sponsorship) deals will go their way.

"But what remains of the marketplace for the rest of us, we must and will fight for our share, and more.

"Through astute financial management and by maximising every commercial opportunity available to us, we will give ourselves the best possible chance of competing on the field with those whose strength off it makes them - on paper at least - untouchable."

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