Ashley to sell Newcastle
Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley says he will sell the club after fans protest.
Last Modified: 14 Sep 2008 18:24 GMT

Kevin Keegan 's resignation has caused uproar on Tyneside [GALLO/GETTY]
Newcastle owner Mike Ashley has put the club up for sale after being depressed by the protests of Magpies fans following Kevin Keegan's resignation as manager.

Ashley, who bought the club in July 2007, said he can't afford to sign star players.

"I am putting the club up for sale,'' he said in a statement. "I hope that the fans get what they want and that the next owner is someone who can lavish the amount of money on the club that the fans want."

Instant success

"The fans want this process to happen more quickly and they want huge amounts spent in the transfer market so that the club can compete at the top table of European football now,'' Ashley added.

Keegan quit on September 4 after claiming his position had been undermined by his lack of influence over the club's transfer affairs.

But the sportswear tycoon said he wasn't prepared to risk the club's future by spending recklessly.

"I paid 134 million pounds (then $270 million) out of my own pocket for the club. I then poured another 110 million pounds into the club not to pay off the debt but just to reduce it,'' Ashley said.

"The club is still in debt. Even worse than that, the club still owes millions of
pounds in transfer fees.

"I shall be paying out many more millions over the coming year to pay for players bought by the club before I arrived.''

Leeds warning

A fan protests against Ashley at the Hull City match [GALLO/GETTY]
Ashley said he doesn't want Newcastle to follow the example of Leeds United, who borrowed money to spend on players in the hope it would bring regular Champions League qualification but which almost caused the club to fold.

"That is the nightmare for every fan," he said. "To love a club that overextends itself, that tries to spend what it can't afford.''

Ashley attempted a last-ditch bid to regain the fans' support on Friday by trying to convince Keegan to return, but they couldn't resolve their grievances.

"I am not stupid and have listened to the fans,'' Ashley said. "I have really loved taking my kids to the games, being next to them and all the fans.

"But I am now a dad who can't take his kids to a football game on a Saturday because I am advised that we would be assaulted. Therefore, I am no longer prepared to subsidise Newcastle United.''

Staying in charge?

Ashley said he will remain in charge if a suitable buyer cannot be found.

"If I can't sell the club to someone who will give the fans what they want then I shall continue to ensure that Newcastle is run on a business and football model that is sustainable,'' he said.

"I care too much about the club merely to abandon it.

"I am prepared to back large signings for millions of pounds, but for a player who is young and has their career in front of them and not for established players at the other end of their careers.

"There is no other workable way forward for Newcastle.''

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