WONGA NOT FIT AND PROPER FOR TOON

The WONGA sponsorship deal has been condemned in the Guardian and Daily Mirror, Labour MPs have vowed never to set foot in SJP while the lads have that name emblazoned on their shirts. Even the Daily Mail has published a WONGA fact column highlighting the massive 4,214 per cent annual interest rate.

Surprisingly a small majority of Toon fans seem to be grudgingly in favour of the deal in a local poll. More surprisingly some NUFC lefty bloggers seem to be giving the impression that WONGA is nothing to get worked up about.

One blogger commented in the Independent:
“I am forced to state that there are more things to worry about in this world than the alleged morality of the company sponsoring my football team”

“Outrage at this sponsorship deal is simply a waste of breath”

Another wrote:
“Quite bluntly, the hypocrisy stinks. Politicians blast off from their hips, without thinking, and condemn the latest developments at SJP. So do a huge chunk of the national media. Well, I never thought I would see the day when I would defend Wonga. But howay, if all, shall we say, potentially not too benevolent companies throw themselves into our game, and then Wonga gets all this abuse, then I do find that hypocrisy, in quite a big high version of it.”

These two bloggers are mates of mine and we agree on many points regarding politics and NUFC but on this I believe they are mistaken.

I will tell you why…..

Of course there is a whiff of hypocrisy. Labour MPs who pontificate about the detestable business practices of WONGA offer no clear policies to stop the cuts and the dismantling of the NHS. They are doing precious little to solve the problems of mass unemployment and poverty, the very conditions that enable WONGA to do business. Basically it is a company which makes money out of the recession and the misery and desperation of its victims.

Having said that, just because Labour MPs and councillors are being hypocritical on this issue does not mean it is wrong to oppose the sponsorship deal. The Football Supporter’s Association have been campaigning against WONGA for some time and have called for adverts for the company to be removed from Football League websites.

The bloggers also mention the involvement of Barlclays and SKY in the Premier League. If we accept their involvement, their argument goes, then what is the problem with WONGA? This seems to have some logic to it but only superficially. Al Capone always pleaded he was just ‘a legitimate businessman’ yet he never managed to get his loan shark business a sponsorship deal with the Chicago White Sox.

Labour MPs have publically called WONGA “legal loan-sharks’.” It says something about 21st century Britain that a company like WONGA even exists. Most people of good faith believe they should not be allowed to operate as they do and they will probably face legislative obstacles in the future. WONGA are trying to buy legitimacy and acceptance through the deal with NUFC. Why should we allow them an easy ride as they drag our club’s name through the mud and make us a laughing stock?

So what about Barclays and SKY? Many of us have been opposed to the involvement of these two companies in football for decades. See the 1992 pamphlet RECLAIM THE GAME  which outlined a programme for fan ownership and called on fans to unite to kick business out of the beautiful game. We also predicted the present debt crisis of clubs and the pricing out of many working class fans from football grounds. In 1992 when most of the press bowed down to Murdoch, SKY and his mega millions we predicted it would all end in tears and so it is.

The left has also consistently campaigned against Barclays particularly for their involvement in apartheid era South Africa.

I have a feeling that those who feel it is not worth ‘wasting breath’ on the issue are also a little pessimistic about he prospects for getting a campaign off the ground. Keep the faith lads! As mentioned previously the Football Supporter’s Association are campaigning against WONGA, in fact the deal they had with the Football League has now ended. The FSA also plan to leaflet Blackpool and NUFC in their ongoing campaign against the company. We are not alone!

Even in the money dominated, ultra capitalist UK there are rules for running a business although they are consistently broken. However, owners of football clubs have to be ‘fit and proper.’ Does anyone think WONGA are a fit and proper company to be involved in our club? That would depend on which direction you see the club going. If you are happy for any big business outfit which waves a wad to get into bed with us then so be it. Enjoy the trip to hell in a handcart.

One of the bloggers said if NUFC got some players out of the deal he would: “….willingly suspend my disapproval.”

Seems like a cheap price to pay for selling out on principles which include kicking big business out of football which I know the writer is in favour of as he says in his article that he supports fan ownership of football clubs.

The deal is being sweetened by emphasising the aspect of youth development. Of course we want to bring on young players but is a company which lends money to people in poverty at exorbitant interest rates the best choice? £24 million does not seem much to me. It is not even an Andy Carroll. With some thought and imagination a more appropriate sponsor could have been found.

I still think that most NUFC fans are decent people who do not want us to be connected with a company like WONGA.

It is clear that the top clubs are heading for a debt crisis. If the banks could not avoid failing how can football clubs escape the same fate? When it happens the fans will be left to pick up the pieces. Why should we sully the name of our club by accepting the grubby profits of WONGA?

At the moment we do not control NUFC but we can surely kick up a fuss. This dirty deal is an example of where big business will take the game if it can get away with it. After WONGA what next? An arms dealer?

Fans can and do have a massive influence when they are united. Look at the Hillsborough tragedy and the involvement of Murdoch’s Sun. The families kept campaigning and eventually their loved ones were exonerated. Murdoch has been forced to withdraw humiliated little by little from the UK. Does anyone think he or anyone from his family would be allowed to be involved with a football club today? Let us stop WONGA now before they gain a foothold in our game and our club. This far and no further.

John Andrew Hird

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