The Warm-Up: Mike Ashley, you’ve done it again
Newcastle United fans may not be getting any football, but they're still being made to pay for it.
THURSDAY’S BIG STORIES
The villain of the piece
Say what you like about Mike Ashley, but the man is committed to his character. He makes even the most dedicated method actor look like a fly-by-night dilettante. In these trying times, his dedication to being as Mike Ashley as possible is almost a comfort; a still centre in turbulent times.
Newcastle owner Mike AshleyPA Sport
Ashley crashed back into the national consciousness this week with an audacious bid to keep Sports Direct open through the government-mandated lockdown on non-essential businesses. Apparently a nation unable to get its hands on multipacks of white socks and giant novelty mugs is a nation unable to function. But after a couple of days of everybody calling him rude words, he relented. We’ll get through this with normal-sized cups of coffee.
But when Ashley isn’t squeezing the country, he goes back to his favoured victims: the long-suffering fans of Newcastle United. You might think that taking season ticket payments for next season would be a ridiculous thing to do, given that this season is still incomplete. And you would be right.
According to a statement from the Newcastle United Supporters Trust, they contacted the club last week to discuss season ticket payments, and received no response. Then they went public, and were told that the club “has no intention of freezing or delaying payments, both for those that pay annually and monthly.”
And then, on Tuesday, out went the annual payments. For a season ticket to a season that may not start in time, that may not be 38 games long, that may not even take place at all. Maybe Ashley really likes being called rude words? That’s pretty much the only theory we have left.
Getting going again
The question “When will football start again?” is a simple one, but with a lot of complicated questions hiding behind it. When will the players be fit again? When will they be match-fit again? Is the restarted season, whenever it comes, going to look like a preseason tour?
"As long as we get a couple of weeks proper training before the next game — and the lads have worked hard in the meantime — we’ll be fine. "
And what does that proper training look like? According to Keane, all Everton’s players have been given bespoke programmes, which they log with the medical team. It’s basically the same set-up as the nation’s children, except instead of one harassed maths teacher trying to explain trigonometry without revealing they’re wearing pyjama bottoms, it’s Carlo Ancelotti’s eyebrow logging onto Zoom.
Not a sentence we imagined writing at the beginning of the season, that.
Pay cuts in the Bundesliga
Over in the Bundesliga, desperate times are calling for desperate measures. Footballers are actually taking pay cuts. So are club directors. What a strange world we keep waking up in.
Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund have both announced that their players and directors will be taking a 20% pay cut, in order that the club can assist other employees during the coronavirus lockdown. This follows a move by Union Berlin, whose players will be accepting no wages during the crisis, and an offer from Borussia Moenchengladbach to do the same.
Whether this will catch on outside the Bundesliga remains to be seen. Germany’s 50+1 model means that clubs are more community-minded than most, and many — Bayern, Dortmund, and maybe Schalke aside — can’t compete financially with even the mid-table of the Premier League. And, of course, football itself is a job of work: a short-lived, often precarious one, with big wages at the top but much uncertainty below.
But on the whole, it’s encouraging to see players and directors realise that there’s more to being part of a football club than getting paid by one.
IN OTHER NEWS
Lots of people with nothing to do + the internet = some really quite creative ways of passing the time. Here’s a list of 26 entirely alphabetical teams — all Xs, all Ys, etc. — ordered by how good they’d be. A fine, fine effort. (We’re supporting C.)
Today would have been the first day of the international break, and while these interruptions to the season often feel unwelcome in normal circumstances, you’d take it now, wouldn’t you? Could go a bit of England vs. Italy right now. Ah well. Here’s Paul Scholes from yesteryear.
"“Everyone is thinking that’s not going to be the date,” Gallen says. “If it is, then we’ll prepare accordingly, but I’m pretty sure that we won’t be playing games on that date.” "
Here tomorrow to bring you all the news from England’s not-game against Italy, along with all the other not-friendlies that happening, it’s Tom Adams.