If you were at the match on Sunday, you may have noticed protests going on in the City Center. Although it had the outward appearance of a financial rally against the greedy loan-shark companies in the north of England, it's certainly had ramifications on the football club as well.
Over the past few days, Campaigners in north-east England have launched a “Sharkstoppers” movement in retaliation to the growing number of legal loan sharks in and around England. According to the protesters, these companies are targetting some of Britain’s poorest communities.
The Sharkstoppers group were active on Sunday in the Newcastle City Centre warning the greater public about the legal loan sharks’ activities in an industry now turning over £8.5 billion. And one of the biggest of these shark companies is Wonga.
In the north-east they are cashing in on a region where incomes are on average 10 per cent lower than the rest of the country, and unemployment rates are 10.4%, almost double that of the region with the lowest rate of 5.8% – the South West.
As of next season, the club will be sporting the loan-shark company Wonga on their shirts. And this news will certainly have been noticed by the club’s leading officials, who signed the bizarre shirt sponsorship deal back in October amid huge controversy.
Northern TUC regional secretary Kevin Rowan has said that the North-East is being immorally exploited by the loan sharks, who apparently feed off the vulnerability of those most in need. He has further highlighted the potential for credit unions to provide a more affordable alternative.
Here’s what he had to say: “It is no coincidence that Wonga have come here to sponsor Newcastle United and not chosen a club like Chelsea.
“Legal loan sharks are cynically trying to prey on the most vulnerable people but trade unions and other groups are campaigning hard to expose them and promote credit unions as the affordable alternative.”
Back in October, Michael Martin, editor of Newcastle fanzine True Faith, described himself as “close to breaking point” upon hearing the news.
He told the Daily Mirror: “The people who run Newcastle, for the fans, have a social responsibility.
“I would love them to honestly answer one question: Would you, Mike Ashley, seriously recommend borrowing money from Wonga at those interest rates? If you can’t answer yes then they shouldn’t be our shirt sponsors.”
In addition to these financial problems, there have also been questions raised over whether the club’s Muslim players would be willing to wear a shirt which promotes loans. Under Sharia law, Muslims must not benefit from either lending money or receiving money from another person, and therefore the whole concept is undermined.
In recent years, many gambling and loan companies have grown during the economic crisis: a number of teams have signed deals with these companies.
Whether these demonstrations have any effect on our club management remains to be seen, but it’s interesting to see the popular sentiment on companies such as these which are supposed to representing the club over the next few years.