Mike Ashley, owner of Newcastle United, has written to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport regarding the petition on football club ownership which Chi presented in the House of Commons last month. Mr Ashley’s letter can be found here.
Chi’s response to Mr Ashley’s letter is as follows:
“I am pleased that Mr Ashley has finally decided to speak about his investment in Newcastle United, even if it is to the Secretary of State rather than the numerous fans, media and others who have attempted to engage with him over the years. My own attempt is here. His office responded by instructing me not to contact him again.
“However, his letter does not address the central point: the lack of investment in Newcastle United players which has left the club with one of the lowest net spend figures in the Premier League.
“The petition I presented is merely a reflection of the concerns and strength and depth of feeling of so many Newcastle United fans who contacted me as their Member of Parliament. I was particularly concerned by the ‘If Rafa Goes, We Go’ petition, knowing how important a role Newcastle United plays in the lives of many of my constituents I do not feel they should have to choose between their club and its ownership. A quick review of social media will show the petition was received overwhelmingly positively received by fans unable to get Mr. Ashley’s attention by other means.
“I’m very upset to hear that abuse has been directed at Sports Direct staff. I invite Mr. Ashley to join me in my longstanding efforts ensure the proper regulation of social media. However Mr. Ashley knows very well that the calls to boycott Sports Direct existed long before my petition and are generally connected to his appalling behaviour as a business owner rather than his record as a football club owner.
“Also at no time have I criticized the Newcastle United Foundation which does wonderful work in the community and whose funding is not, as Mr Ashley implies, entirely a consequence of his ownership.
“I will be writing to the Secretary of State, Jeremy Wright, to offer a meeting with myself and Newcastle United fans so he can judge for himself the depth of feeling on this issue and the crucial importance of football to my constituents
“Finally Mr Ashley knows I am a fan of Newcastle United as well as the MP for St James’ Park. I boycotted the ground for three years because of his choice of Wonga as a sponsor. I admit to being motivated in part by my support for the club and desire to see beautiful Premiership football continue to be played at St James Park.”