1. ITV Report

MP calls for greater scrutiny of Newcastle Utd's finances under Mike Ashley

Chi v Ashley Photo: ITV News

By Kris Jepson

Chi Onwurah MP has called for greater government scrutiny of Newcastle Utd's finances under owner Mike Ashley, demanding “effective regulation” of the beautiful game.

Speaking during a Parliamentary debate on Thursday night, the Newcastle Central politician said the club was "the beating heart of our city", adding "we should be able to protect it".

She told the Sports Minister that during a "robust" meeting with Mike Ashley during Newcastle's victory over Cardiff last weekend, he "was passionate in his defence of his investments and in saying he hasn’t taken any money out of the club other than short-term funding on a temporary basis".

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Raising her concerns in a Commons debate, Chi Onwurah said "We don’t know what income the club is generating and if that is being used on the club. What is certain is that this transfer window, like the last one, is closing without money being spent on players or training facilities... Newcastle Utd is the beating heart of our city. We should be able to protect it."

Today, she defended her decision to use parliamentary time to discuss a football club.

It’s important that I raise different issues. I’m not always talking about football in parliament. I raise issues about housing, universal credit, but this is important to people. People stop me in the street and say it’s important to them and I think its part of my job to raise what’s important to them.

– Chi Onwurah MP

The MP lodged a petition raising the issue of Newcastle's finances and Mike Ashley's alleged lack of investment in parliament last summer.

In response, Mike Ashley wrote a letter to the Sports Secretary saying "The Parliamentary petition is an irresponsible and misleading attempt by a small number of MPs, to create a media circus by portraying me as a pantomime villain".

Luke Edwards Credit: ITV News

Football writer, Luke Edwards, of the Daily Telegraph told ITV News that her latest intervention may be controversial with some voters and is unlikely to have any impact.

He said "I suppose there will be people out there, who at a time of national crisis with Brexit, might wonder if it was the best use of parliamentary time, but I think it was a good thing to do".

Well I certainly wouldn’t fault her motivations or intentions. She’s trying to raise the concerns every Newcastle supporter has to a wider national audience. Unfortunately the answer you get back from the government is all too predictable, Mike Ashley isn’t breaking any laws, he’s not breaking any rules and quite frankly he can do as he sees fit with his football club.

– Luke Edwards, Daily Telegraph

During the debate, the sports minister said to the best of her knowledge the “Newcastle owner is complying with the rules about finance and transparency” and ITV News understands the club's accounts are independently audited.

Chi Onwurah said when she met Mike Ashley last weekend he was "passionate in his defence of his investments and in saying he hasn’t taken any money out of the club other than short-term funding on a temporary basis".