Newcastle United have reportedly signed a deal with The Sun newspaper to become the club’s exclusive national media partner, according to a reporter with The Telegraph.
This means that The Sun, the same tabloid that slandered the victims of the Hillsborough disaster and has been caught up in a phone-hacking scandal, is now the official mouthpiece of a Premier League team. The newspaper will no doubt continue to print puff pieces such as the example pictured above that it ran last week.
Under owner Mike Ashley, Newcastle continues to push the limits of ridiculousness. Whether it was the shirt sponsorship deal with Wonga, the long-term Alan Pardew contract, the rehiring of Joe Kinnear as Director of Football, the renaming of St James Park or Ashley’s own enigmatic behavior, the Magpies have become the Premier League version of a freak show. However, if the published reports are to be believed, Ashley has pushed the club to a new level of ridiculousness.
As the Ashley regime continues to peel away the last shreds of Newcastle United’s dignity, the club begins a preseason tour of Australia and New Zealand next week. Ironically this tour coincides with the launch of Sports Direct in both countries. Ashley made his money via Sports Direct and also served as a whistleblower in the apparel industry by accusing other distributors of price-fixing. This led to his long-running and public feud with Wigan Athletic owner Dave Whelan.
Fans of Newcastle United have been long fed up with Ashley. Not only has the owner made unconventional hires, but he has systematically turned the club from merely underachiever to embarrassing laughing stock. The process that began when Ashley chugged a pint of beer in full view of TV cameras in 2008 at the Emirates has culminated in this deal with the newspaper.
Has such a deal ever been consummated in this history of English football? Exclusive media partnerships are extremely rare in the world of sports. They are usually reserved for trade shows and other public multi-day events. The idea of a major sporting institution that relies on dozens of media outlets to cover it properly picking and choosing one over another is poor form from the standpoint of journalistic integrity. It is even poorer form when one considers the partnership has been made with The Sun, which has long been considered a pariah publication among many in the English soccer community.
The continued desire of Mike Ashley to squeeze every penny out of Newcastle United is further marginalizing the club and alienating its supporters. While Ashley continues as owner, little can be done to save the club’s reputation it seems. But the hope among many Geordies is that the levels of embarrassment become so great and the pressure on Ashley from supporters so unbearable that he chooses to sell the club sooner rather than later.
Newcastle United’s manipulation of the media is another low for the club. Last November, the club banned a local newspaper from the stadium because the paper ran a story about Newcastle fans protesting against the club. And now it has partnered with a national newspaper to ensure that only positive articles are written. Presumably The Sun newspaper will get more access and exclusives than the other papers who want to write about Newcastle United. So much for a free press, Mr Ashley.