I think it was Jimmy Greaves who once noted that football is, “a funny old game” and how true that seems this week. After the dismal defeat on the last Sunday in October, we have put in a decent performance against Manchester City, before beating many people’s title favourites Chelsea. A funny game indeed.
And the same can be said of the media world. Two stories in particular have caught my eye this week. Firstly, of course, there has been the ban on ncjmedia titles at St James’ Park. Secondly, I have read more relevations about the tax status of that great patriot, Lord Rothermere, the owner of the Daily Mail.
With regards to the media ban at St James’ Park, much has already been written on this and other Newcastle United fans websites. Taken along with the banning of the Newcastle United SupportersTrust from the ‘fans forum’ it is surely a sign of desperation from Ashley. There is the whiff of the end of a regime coming out of St James’ these days, like that which you can sniff when a dictator is about to fall from power. Yet, as the laws of club ownership stand, Ashley could go on for many years yet, depressing as that may seem.
I do wonder in retrospect, if he would still be here at all, if the economic crisis hadn’t come along when it did. It may have made no difference at all, but perhaps a little more economic confidence might have prompted somebody to make an offer Ashley couldn’t have refused. Hopefully an offer whereby he can make the large profit he seems he has always wanted out of our club, will see him sell soon. Whatever; the problems at the club won’t really go until he does and even then, like all other supporters, we will be again be in the hands of another owner, who may well have just as big an ego – and as little knowledge of the game.
I will leave the last word about the affair (at least for the moment) to Tim Luckhurst. According to the BBC news website, Tim “heads the University of Kent’s centre of journalism, (and has) described the bans as “a very worrying phenomenon”.
“There is a sense at the top of the Premier League that the management can control the message,” he said.
“I’m afraid my impression of football is that clubs are very reluctant to even begin to understand the idea of free speech. They are not interested in being held to account in any way.”
Next to that great champion of media free spech – as long as you are incredibly wealthy or powerful – Lord Rothermere, the owner of the Daily Mail. For a man who likes to claim that his newspaper loves Britain so much, whilst dishing out hatred towards so many of its citizens on a daily basis, Lord Rothermere does seem rather keen on foreign tax havens.
Private Eye has recently noted a few ways by which Lord Rothermere has not been following George Osborne’s assertion that, “we are in this together”.
In 1998, Lord Rothermere inherited the Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT) from his fater the 3rd Viscount.
Among other things noted by Private Eye:
“Rothermere and DMGT non-executive John Hemingway – a retired lawyer who advises the wealthy on “structuring and management of their family resources” – are directors of this company, which is owned by an unknown trust administered in Jersey for the benefit of Rothermere and his family. Following an offshore transaction earlier this year (see Eye 1344), which almost certainly avoided a hefty stamp duty bill”
It was also pointed out that Rothermere actually owes his allegiance to France, giving this supposedly patriotic British man what are described as “serious tax advantages”. According to Private Eye, this has enabled Rothermere to use numerous tax loopholes to add to his already enormous wealth. Indeed it was reported that, when he needed to build new wings on the east and west of his huge mansion in 2006 Rothermere was able to, “borrow money using his offshore-held DMGT shares as security, rather than bringing millions of his fortune into the UK and facing a full income tax charge on it.”
Private Eye goes on to note that Rothermere uses a bewildering system of companies to avoid paying taxes in the UK and that, “along with share portfolios, certain Rothermere land interests are held tax-efficiently offshore too. For a non-dom, even land deep in the English countryside ultimately escapes inheritance tax if held through offshore trusts.”
Should any of this matter? Well, I was talking to students last week and explaining to them it is highly likely, that with lower temperatures on the way, coupled with higher fuel prices, vulnerable people in Newcastle and indeed across the country, will die this winter, quietly out of the way and totally unnecessarily, especially as benefits have been cut and so many struggle on appallingly low wages. Yet here you have a fabulously wealthy man, deliberately paying very little tax – money which could be saving lives. All this from a man who claims to be ‘patriotic’ . If patriotism means anything it has to be about love of all people in a country.
For all its shallow rhetoric it does seem that, with its hatred for so many British citizens and the reluctance of its owner to pay his taxes, the Daily Mail is really a deeply unpatriotic newspaper.
© Peter Sagar 3rd November 2013