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Credit to Ashley; chronicle comment.

THE precarious state of finances in football are encapsulated by Newcastle United's financial results. Yet, given relegation, it was a remarkable performance driven not just by cost-cutting but by the fact fans stuck by the club.

With 43,388 being the average crowd in the Championship, it put United in fourth place in England's attendance league.

Mike Ashley and his board have rightly faced a great deal of criticism for the mistakes they have made which helped see the club lose its Premier League status.

And there is much work to do in terms of securing top-flight football this season as well as a need to communicate more frequently and clearly with fans.

However, what these figures do show is the amount of money Mr Ashley has had to put into the club to ensure it remained viable.

Provided relegation doesn't happen this season his cash has helped ensure the club is on course to break even next year before the pounds 35m from Andy Carroll is taken into account.

At 90%, wages to turnover ratio was simply unsustainable and would leave the club in a perilous financial position - as has happened elsewhere with Leeds, Portsmouth and others.

What happens on the pitch must always remain top priority but it has to operate within a sensible business model.

Mr Ashley and his team deserve credit for that and, if they can find a way to engage with the vast majority of fans who don't shout personal abuse from the terraces more effectively, then there is still time for him to repair what is a tarnished reputation.
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Mar 30, 2011
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