So this long slow-motion disaster of a season stumbles on, with Alan Pardew’s seemingly Swanseabanneruntenable position actually turning out to be very tenable, if only in the mind of one person. Unfortunately that person owns the club and in the hugely elitist, highly undemocratic Premier League bubble that is all that matters.

We are all only too well aware that, as humorously and excellently displayed on the banner at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday, since the beginning of 2014 Pardew’s record up to 3 o’clock on Saturday had been truly abysmal; played 28, won 6, drawn 4 and lost 18. It is also clear that tactically he has nothing to offer, which can remotely keep up with the innovations, which seem to come so thick and fast these days. As for Pardew’s motivational skills, a cursory examination of how successful Newcastle United have been in trying to overturn half-time defecits will tell you all you need to know. Yet still Pardew clings on to his job and perhaps more pertinently his chance of a massive pay-off should he be sacked rather than resign.

The problem, it is argued, is not really Pardew, but Ashley. There is certainly something in this. At any major club in normal circumstances, Pardew would have gone by now, but of course the Ashley regime at St James’ Park is far from a normal situation. Quite why Ashley has not put Pardew and the rest of us out of our misery is a matter of considerable speculation. It has been very reasonably pointed out that Pardew acts as a shield for Ashley, deflecting some of the criticism that Ashley’s deeply cynical regime deserves. Pardew has also acted as a yes-man for Ashley, although the usefulness of this role must be almost completely diminished as few fans, if any, believe Pardew anymore.

There have also been rumours of Pardew owing Ashley a gambling debt, while it does seem eminently sensible to suggest that for all his millions, if not billions, Ashley still doesn’t want to shell out any compensation should he sack Pardew.

Probably the real reason why Ashley is so reluctant to sack Pardew is a mixture of some if not all of the above.

The other point made about Ashley and Pardew is that it may make very little difference to sack Pardew as it is hard to see which good self-respecting manager would come in and do better. It is indeed hard to believe that somebody like David Moyes would want to re-build his reputation at a club where his hands would be so tightly tied, It is more likely that any successor to Pardew would be another one of Ashley’s cronies, prepared to sacrifice his self-respect for a wage packet that the rest of us can only dream of.

It seems clear that if Pardew is a problem, then Ashley is an even bigger one.

Yet, as was pointed out in my last blog, Ashley is in many ways merely a symptom of the wider way in which football is run in this country. While both the F.A. and the Premier League lack any real powers to regulate the game on behalf of supporters, then the real power in our national game lies in the hands of 20 millionaires and billionaires, including our very own Mike Ashley, who can do pretty much what they like, as long as they stay within the law; a law which seems to consist of laws deliberately designed to make things easy for them.

So, we can clearly trace the farcical situation at St James’ Park, all the way through Pardew’s incompetence, to Ahley’s indifference and then on to the highly undemocratic way in which the national game is run. However this should only then beg another question: to what extent is the way the national game run merely a reflection of the way our entire society is run?

It should be a matter of concern to all decent right-thinking people in our country that such a self-centred, sociopathic character as Ashley has risen to a position of such wealth and prominence. Yet that is how our society is run; since the dark days of Thatcherism in the 1980’s, greed and ruthlessness have been seen as great qualities and as part of this we see the national game effectively run by 20 very wealthy people or groups of people, who can treat football clubs and all they mean to fans in terms of identity and local pride, as little more than money-making play things. Perhaps if you are a Chelsea supporter right now you might not think there is any great problem, but as Newcastle United supporters we should be only too well aware of the dangers of this way of working.

Since 1979 staistics tell us that the country has become ever more unequal and power and wealth have become ever more concentrated in a fewer and fewer hands. The 1980’s saw the spurious share-holding democracy policy of the Thatcher government, which promised that everybody could be a well-off shareholder in privatised companies we had already owned, while in reality, as the Conservatives must have foreseen, the mega rich shareholders bought up the shares of others, so creating the kind of nightmarish cosy cartel of energy companies, able to put up prices without any democratic accountability, as poorer pensuioners, after a life of hard work are forced to make choices about heating their homes or eating well – or are forced join the hundreds of thousands down at the food banks in what is still the 6th richest nation in the world.

As the government’s austerity policies continue to bite and we are continually told there is no money for services or to give public sector workers a decent pay rise after years of below inflation rises, our intelligence is then insulted by Cameron trying to bribe us before the election with tax cuts, with money he must have just found down the back of the sofa.  All the while the rich, like Ashley and others who run Premier League Clubs, continue to get richer to the point where the richest families have the same amount of wealth as the poorest 12  million, many of whom are struggling in very low-paid jobs and are set to be hammered again by the millionaire Greorge Osborne, in the event of a Conservative victory next May.  So when you consider the expense of watching football at a match, whilst the television money has been recently been increased to the extent that football clubs could afford to drastically cut admission prices, remember that our national game is merely reflecting the greedy elitism in society at large.

The last week has also seen the news that Wonga have been ordered to pay off £220m of debt owed by 330 000 debtors whom Wonga deliberately took on board knowing that they probably wouldn’t be able to repay the loans at the appallingly astronomical rates demanded by these sleazy loan sharks. Whilst I am sure most readers would agree with me that this serves Wonga right and is welcome news, it also highlights a more sinister side of the way our economy and society are run.

Wonga won’t be too discomforted by this judgement as they continue to rake in huge profits.  They and other payday lenders have grown in size, as the wages of millions of hard-working British people have stagnated over the last 6 years.  That as many as 330 000 families are so desperate as to go to Wonga and are then unable to repay their loans, should tell you a lot about the nature of our desperately unequal and unfair society.  The Coalition Government have managed to ensure that the economic recovery, delayed by at least two years by Osborne’s policies, is even now only a recovery for the rich and powerful.  In this kind of situation, is it any wonder the likes of Ashley feel that they can do what they like?

It was notable that the Yes Campaign in Scotland, which successfully turned what had looked like an inevitable victory for the No Campaign into such a close-run thing that it shook the Westminster Establishment to itr core, had a lot of young activists providing much of its energy and enthusiasm, seeing independence in their eyes as an escape from Austerity Britain. Whatever the rights and wrongs of their interpretation of the independence debate, given the difficult situation for so many young people in Britain today it is also surely no wonder that they are looking for hope from somewhere.

The economist Will Hutton has pointed out the following:

“The experience of the under-30s, one of the most important markets for payday lenders, is even worse. Since 2008, real wages of 18-25-year-olds have dived 14% and for 25-29-year-olds by 12%. In desperation, hundreds of thousands of young people have turned to payday lenders to sustain their living standards. The tragic stories of individuals overwhelmed by debt are often those of twenty-somethings whose plummeting income has forced them into the arms of a payday lender.”

When you observe the greed and selfishness of Ashley at play at Newcastle United, what you are really seeing is nothing more than a mere reflection of the deeply dysfunctional and unequal society  in which we live.

Pardew is a problem, but he is still there because of the power which Ashley wields and the indifference he feels towards the supporters of the club he is able to own because of his vast wealth. Yet Ashley can only act as he does because of the lack of regulation in the game of football as a whole at the Premier League level, That in turn is a mere reflection of the lack of economic regulation in our society in general, which allows the concentration of wealth in ever fewer hands, making the likes of Ashley billionaires, whilst millions of hard-working Britons are forced to go cap-in-hand to the likes of Wonga, or to the local foodbank.

© Peter Sagar October 2014   

 

The 2nd North East People’s Assembly is fast approaching. Our flagship event is back at the superb Northern Stage theatre on Saturday 1 November. Hundreds of people will gather in Newcastle for the region’s biggest anti-austerity convention of 2014. I invite you to be one of them.

This year our 3 main slogans are: No More Austerity, Save our NHS, Stand up for Education. These themes will run throughout the day.

Austerity continues. Many of the cuts are still to be implemented. A broad, united movement of opposition is more necessary than ever. This event is a vital contribution to expanding and strengthening that movement.

We have 2 main rallies, 10 workshop sessions to choose from, and a people’s variety show with comedy, music and much more. Tickets are just £10 for the whole event, with cheaper prices for  concessions and for daytime-only or evening-only access.

BUY TICKETS via http://www.northernstage.co.uk/whats-on/north-east-peoples-assembly-2014

OR call in at the Northern Stage box office

OR phone 0191 230 5151.

SPEAKERS include:
Jude Kirton-Darling MEP, Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, NUT deputy general secretary Kevin Courtney, TUC regional secretary Beth Farhat, and People’s March for the NHS co-organisers Joanna Adams and Rehana Azam.

WORKSHOPS include:
Save our NHS; Stand up for Education; Racism, immigration and Ukip; Cut war not welfare; Organising against cuts locally; and Alternatives to Austerity.

PERFORMERS in  our evening show include:
comic and poet Kate Fox, singer-songwriter Pete Scott, award-winning poet Helen Mort, Backscratch Theatre, and comedians Mike Milligan and Steffen Peddie.

The North East People’s Assembly is a unique space for discussion, debate and planning. It will bring together a wide range of people, including representatives of many campaigns and trade unions, to share ideas, raise awareness and plan the resistance.

Please be part of it. Please also spread the word and ensure everyone knows it is happening, by forwarding this email or sharing the facebook event –
https://www.facebook.com/events/606667399410102/

As Lee Hall, Newcastle-born writer of ‘Billy Elliot’ and ‘The Pitmen Painters’, put it in the powerful piece he wrote for last year’s event:

‘This forum is important. In order to fight back we need to start talking to each other. That is why the People’s Assembly is important. It is a place where we must conspire to demand something better. To make sure the redistribution starts going the other way.

Yes, it’s an enormous task, but we’ve got to start somewhere. So I send my support and say to you: Be brave. Get organised. Every single one of you can make a difference.’

So, please don’t delay! Book here today: http://www.northernstage.co.uk/whats-on/north-east-peoples-assembly-2014

In solidarity,
Tony Dowling,
Chair of North East People’s Assembly

 

 

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