Is MP right to say Wonga's wrong for Newcastle United?

Wonga sign at Newcastle United training ground Wonga already has its name on Newcastle United's training ground

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Newcastle United's decision to sign a sponsorship deal with pay day loans company Wonga has outraged some local politicians.

Wansbeck Labour MP Ian Lavery - who is a season ticket holder - says he won't set foot inside the ground while the company's name is on the club shirts.

The Newcastle City Council Labour leader Nick Forbes has also condemned the deal and said Wonga should put money into debt advice in Newcastle.

But given this is actually a private deal between two businesses, what right have politicians to criticise it?

Stadium name

For one thing it does look like good business for Newcastle United.

It's thought the contract is worth around £8 million a year - more than any previous sponsorship deal.

Around £1.5 million will go into the club's academy, and Wonga has decided that the stadium name should revert back to St James' Park after its brief time as the Sports Direct Arena.

Start Quote

Ian Lavery MP

A city like Newcastle and the region should not have any ties with an organisation like Wonga”

End Quote Ian Lavery MP Labour, Wansbeck

The company will also put money into a club scheme to find jobs for young people.

In addition, it's not as if Wonga is a new name in football sponsorship. The firm also has deals with Blackpool and Hearts.

And although some people might not like the fact that Wonga's loans come at an astronomical annual interest rate, they are a legal business with many customers.

You might also ask if they are any worse than many other shirt sponsors.

Aston Villa and Swansea are sponsored by casino companies, Bolton, Wigan and Wolves by online bookmakers, Everton by a Thai beer.

In addition, as journalist Julian Knight pointed out in The Independent, previous sponsor Northern Rock may have had a charitable foundation, but it was also a company that sold people 125% mortgages, and cost the taxpayer billions in a bail out.

Community relationship

But it really comes down to whether you think a football club is purely a business or whether it actually has a wider responsibility in the community.

The local Labour politicians who've been so critical of the club certainly believe Newcastle United should take its responsibilities seriously.

The club has an intimate and long relationship with the city - its shirts can frequently be seen on the streets even outside match days.

St James' Park sign being taken down Fans and politicians were outraged when St James' Park was renamed the Sports Direct Arena

Opponents of the deal argue Wonga is cynically buying into that community relationship, selling more loans to more people who can't afford them.

MP and fan Ian Lavery said: "A city like Newcastle and the region should not have any ties with an organisation like Wonga.

"This business makes profits off the back of deprived people who are desperate and who are the most vulnerable in society."

City council leader Nick Forbes said: "I'm sickened. It's a sad indictment of the profit-at-any-price culture at Newcastle United.

"We are fighting hard to tackle legal and illegal loan sharking and having a company like this on every football shirt that's sold undermines all our work."

And there is some history here.

Local politicians were also similarly outraged when St James' Park became the Sports Direct Arena, and their relationship with owner Mike Ashley is hardly a constructive one.

Satisfied customers

The club's fans though appear to be more divided.

Start Quote

Derek Llambias

People are not forced to take out loans from Wonga and I believe North East people have enough brains to know what they are doing”

End Quote Derek Llambias Managing director, Newcastle United

A survey by the Newcastle Journal found 59% in favour of the deal, and 41% against, although I stress this was no scientific study.

Wonga has also been defending its business, saying it has thousands upon thousands of satisfied customers, who are shut out of finance by the high street banks.

And Newcastle United managing director, Derek Llambias, told the Newcastle Journal: "Wonga is a legal company with 30,000 customers in the region, and yet their complaints are next to zero.

"Banks and other institutions get far more negative feedback. People are not forced to take out loans from Wonga and I believe North East people have enough brains to know what they are doing."

So it seems Wonga is here to stay both as a company, and on Newcastle United shirts. Ian Lavery then won't be seen at St James' Park for some time.

I suspect a mass fan boycott is unlikely though.

Instead, this week is just a reminder - if fans needed one - that modern day football clubs are first and foremost businesses.

Richard Moss Article written by Richard Moss Richard Moss Political editor, North East & Cumbria

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  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Probably the worst shirt sponsor any team could have. This puts NUFC as a true second class club.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Well done Papiss! Shame on the politicians who let it happen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    i support cisse in his protest. nufc are just money grabbing. i dont understand how any respectable club can advertise a company that drags people into more debt to the point were they have to go bankrupt. im not a muslim and i would refuse to wear the shirt too. fair play cisse

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    @17. TomTomJnr

    2nd rate manager
    3rd rate owner
    Not surprising we attract 4th rate sponsor

    Well stated.

    Wonga is just a fancy legal money shark. I do not support NUFC, but I certainly do not support the loan sharks like Wonga.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Good man, Wonga shouldn't be aloud to go what they do anyway. It's the stupidly rich taking every penny they can off those how work hard for their pennies. The banks got everyone is this mess, maybe they should offer short term loans with much lower interest rates to muke up for the dodgy (Rich man gamberling) i mean trading in stock and shaires scandles

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    24, Phil...... clearly another person ready to argue against anything a muslim does - Nobody is pandering to him, if I were a Newcastle fan or supporter I'd be annoyed that Wonga are sponsoring my team, they pick on financially hard up people that banks will not lend to because they are a risk and charge huge interest rates.
    And, he didn't say he's not happy here, he's just got morals.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    any exploitative companies should be adults only watershed advertised-only. companies like wonga and betting companies should have zero-input into industries that rely heavily on the devotion of younger people, as football is.

    if we seek a brighter future then this clearly wouldn't happen, but it will continue to do so until we root-out the corruption within the british government.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    This is the changing face of the UK, more and pandering to religious nonsense in the name of being PC.
    If you are so brainwashed by religious madness then go somewhere where you will be happier, like a country that is of your own particular religion.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    As a non-Muslim, I object to Wonga and its exploitation of people's poverty. Cisse has drawn a line. He's was prepared to allow Newcastle Brown Ale as a mark of respect for the culture he now lives in. Wonga is simply wronga.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Wonga is immoral whatever your reason, Clive (19)..... if it was a non muslim doing it you'd probably back him, or do you think that these pay day companies are good for society?

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Papiss Cisse if only more were like you in that club rip of company's would not be on sport shirts

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    To all Toon fans IS Papiss Cisse , Hero or Villian? I know there WILL be sceptics that will say he is working his ticket out of Newcastle Utd.. For me as a neutral football fan. I think at least a football pro who has "some" integrity. Obviously the "media" is picking up on his muslim faith but it is a start. Too many clubs are selling their souls these days.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    but Newcastle Brown can advertise and he as no issue with it, oh wait a minute Muslims cannot drink or smoke. So no tobacco adds either. I am a firm believer you keep religion and politics out of sport, failing to do so will ruin sport. If his religious conviction wont allow him to accept western culture maybe he should go play in an Islamic country for a Muslim team.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Now it they became sponsors of Chelsea.....that WOULD be news.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    2nd rate manager
    3rd rate owner
    Not surprising we attract 4th rate sponsor

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    I guess it's simple, if you don't like it, don't buy the shirt with the name on it. I won't be doing so. The quickest way to incur change is hit them in the pocket. Second half of last season seemed like Willy Wonga and the Chocolate factory performances anyway......

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    If Heckler and Koch/ Barettea etc wanted to be a sponsor of NUFC and they paid x millions to put a pic of their gun/logo on the front would that be 'acceptable' for Newcastle the club or its fans. As a part of the local community where does the buck stop?.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    I'm not a fan of this type of sponsorship, but we've all been taken advanatge of by insurance companies, casinos, sky etc etc. All companies that sponsorship are in it for the same reason, PR and maximisation of profits. We can't live in a free and open market then complain when a perfect legal company sponsors a team. I don't use tesco out of principle, however, i'm sure no-one would complain!

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    This seems very convenient to me and that Cisse is trying to engineer a move away. Dont get me wrong I dont really agree with Wonga and what it stands for but if Muslims are against any company that lends money for profit shouldnt he have said something about Virgin Money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    What should be the new sponsor, Asda Smart Price


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