Remember about three weeks ago?

I’m sure you can if you put your minds to it. It was all about transparency and treating supporters with respect with regards to the arbitration between United and the Premier League being held in public. They were great carefree, idealistic days from Ashley speaking through Newcastle United.

Ashley and Staveley’s calls for transparency were ignored as were supporter petitions to politicians, government, the Premier League and anyone else you care to mention.

Still, for a brief moment it appeared as though Newcastle United had undergone a Damascene conversion and now wished to have its supporters treated with something approaching decency and respect.

Yes, I am being sarcastic and I know it’s the lowest form of wit but if you’ve been reading my old guff long enough that will come as no revelation.

But if I’m allowed to return more soberly to the matters at hand we have to detail where the club is right now.

You will have clocked Newcastle United is the only Premier League club yet to sign a player. Many of us aren’t even shocked by this kind of stuff anymore. It has become so much part of the grinding underinvestment in every part of our club’s operation under Ashley that it barely raises any anger amongst the support.

But obviously it really still matters.

Right now, Newcastle United is in a significantly weaker position to what it was in at the end of last season. The club has lost players of course, reducing the payroll as Atsu, Saivet, Lejeurne and possibly Mutu have left United.

Nothing has been incoming.

I will also flag that Newcastle United is the only club yet to publish its full accounts for the last full reporting period.

Not signing any players and a failure to publish the accounts may not be unconnected.

Will United have lost money because of the impact of COVID-19?

Unquestionably but no more or less than any other PL clubs and so it is another one of those moments at our club where we watch Brentford sign Ajer (widely regarded as a key Newcastle United target) from Celtic and others go elsewhere for big money but nothing is doing on Barrack Road.

We all know Ashley wants to sell Newcastle United to the Staveley-led consortium and we also know that looked like it was going to happen twelve months ago.

How this has entered his thinking regards taking money out of United (as he did to drain the pot Rafa might have had for new players in the season before he left) remains to be seen but it is part of his modus to take money back out of United when opportunities present themselves.

So, the question is – will the latest accounts show that Ashley has taken money out of United and is this along with the losses suffered from COVID-19 buckling any attempts to strengthen the squad?

Maybe Newcastle United could give us some transparency on the club’s real financial position, with reference to some details as opposed to Steve Bruce’s Old Mother Hubbard impersonations facing flimsy questions from the press pack?

Now back to the Takeover. I know, I’m sorry but …

Is this Takeover a still a thing?

Are all parties still lined up to give Mike Ashley the £300m+ apparently agreed last year?

Staveley is the only one to speak in public and didn’t impress everyone with a tone that might easily have been interpreted as having the whiff of desperation about it.

Are the Reubens still in the game?

Are the Saudis via the Public Investment Fund still part of the consortium?

Of the latter two we have heard zero.

I have also seen the question asked elsewhere which is worthy of repeating – are the Public Investment Fund (PIF) supporting both elements of the legal proceedings being brought against the Premier League – by Newcastle United (arbitration) and St James Holdings (CAT).

Can Newcastle United categorically confirm that the legal case in both elements is being co-ordinated with support from the Saudi side?

If it is not then we can see how the chances for success in both regards are significantly undermined.

Then we go further, is the structure of the deal and the price agreed in April 2020 still on the table in August 2021?

I have difficulty in reconciling talk of United’s finances (and therefore value) being ravaged over the last 18 months with the consortium agreeing to those original terms. The club is worth less now than it was then so why pay the same price?

Maybe all parties could make some public statements to supporters so we can have that transparency that was all the rage three weeks ago.

I’ve asked questions previously about the new Castore kit deal which have yet gone unanswered and haven’t been picked up by the mainstream or local media covering United. Indeed The Chronicle appear to have an enthusiasm for the ascetics of the new kit bordering on the juvenile and a striking lack of professional curiosity about some of the financial elements which are striking.

Here’s the most basic question – how much is the Castore kit deal worth to United? How much will it put into Newcastle United’s coffers so it can develop the playing staff etc?

What are the links between Castore and Sports Direct? What role does Sports Direct have in this new deal?

The most basic amount of investigation has found that whilst there is no direct involvement between Ashley and Castore (we’ve checked) it is stretching credulity to breaking point to believe that Ashley is allowing a sports brand and potential competitor to gain a toe-hold in the city of the football club he owns without some kind of benefit to him?

Ashley has given up the club shop (sic) and is apparently okay with a Castore outlet selling United kit to be opened in Monument Mall, only a short walk away from his Northumberland St.?

We also note Sports Direct is able to knock out a Newcastle United shirt cheaper than the club? Who allowed that to happen in the negotiation of the deal? Oh, sorry, I’m being sarcastic again.

All of this is of course reminiscent of the experience at Rangers when Castore launched their kit last season.

I note that while The Chronicle referred to colleagues on Merseyside within the REACH PLC group for comment with the rumours of an Everton interest in Alain Saint-Maximin they appear not to have done the same kind of exploration with similar colleagues in Glasgow. Weird you might think.

But then back to transparency at Newcastle United!

Newcastle United is a club which operates without a formal board of directors. The whole club it appears is run by Lee Charnley. But if you believe that, you’ll believe anything.

The dogs on the street know Justin Barnes plays a pivotal role at United, particularly with transfers but he apparently has no formal role at the club – how can that be?

Can supporters be updated as to the full scope and authority of Barnes’ role at Newcastle United?

Then of course there is the role of the Supporters Liaison Officer at Newcastle United. Our club is the only one in the Premier League which fails to have a full time SLO. At best it is a range of cursory duties clagged onto Lee Marshall, who used to be the SLO but has become the club’s Head of Media.

Why is United alone in not having a Supporters Liaison Officer?

Why is United alone in having no formal liaison with supporters in the Premier League and very likely in the Football League too?

We might also ask why the Premier League turns a blind eye to this.

For additional information about the role of SLOs see the explanation on the FSA website here and via UEFA here

The FSA has Lee Marshall named as the Newcastle United Supporters Liaison Officer but this is incorrect. That is not his role. His role is Head of Media.

The FSA also has Lucy Oliver named as the club’s Disability Access officer. The same Lucy Oliver is also Head of Inclusion at Newcastle United.

You can give people job titles but this does not mean they are fulfilling the obligations of the role.

Anyone would think Newcastle United was failing to meet its obligations as supporters’ liaison and disability access? You could be accused of believing the club was being deliberately disingenuous in an effort to save even the smallest amounts of money.

You might also think that with a continued haemorrhage of season ticket holders (anything between 12 to 16,000) the club might wish to engage more fully with supporters even in its own commercial interests not least for old fashioned reasons of having a kind of unity of purpose. Nah, the club appears to be completely unmoved by the turn from anger to apathy amongst the support. I think we all know apathy is a more corrosive and damaging emotion amongst supporters than fury.

So, we return to the question of transparency again at a club where Lee Charnley appears to only leave the house between dusk and dawn with absolutely no interaction with supporters (bar one or  two self-aggrandising useful idiots with a penchant for tea and biscuits). And an owner in Ashley who is yet to have a sit-down with  any kind of prominent, non-kiss arse journalist in 15 years.

Transparency? That is so three weeks ago?

Keep On, Keepin’ On …

MICHAEL MARTIN