MIKE Ashley may not – on the face of it – have much in common with Marie Antoinette, but he is similarly distanced from the reality of the eating habits of the common people.
The Newcastle United owner and vastly wealthy Sports Direct founder has allowed his spiky relationship with the media at St James’ Park to sink to a farcical new low.
I am told that his year-long ban on the local and regional newspapers on Tyneside has come to an end just in time for another run-in to put further strain on his dealings with the media.
Press representatives have always enjoyed a decent spread when attending Newcastle games but cost-conscious Ashley decided his fortune, estimated at just under £4bn, could be better spent on other things.
So for the home game against Leicester on 18 October, Ashley and his staff scrapped the usual fine food on offer – pies and snacks – and replaced them with soup.
The food ration had the hacks scurrying to buy their own grub but Ashley did not like it when subsequent headlines, such as “Who Ate All The Pies?” pointed the finger at the burly Toon owner.
He has apparently been so rattled that for the last home game, a stunning defeat of hitherto unbeaten Chelsea, the soup was off the menu too. The only thing offered to Her Majesty’s Press was a cup of tea.
\While Marie Antoinette believed the masses could eat cake if there was not enough bread, Ashley clearly believes in keeping the hacks lean and treating them mean.
It’s a stark contrast from the sumptuous food and drink on offer in the owner’s own suite before, during and after all Newcastle games. It’s a veritable feast. You can take my word for it; I’ve been there at his invitation on quite a few occasions. Mind you, he has recently discussed with senior aides charging his invited guests for what is traditionally free hospitality.
But Ashley has clearly not thought through putting the journos on rations. For next up, Newcastle have the full-blooded Tyne-Wear derby on Sunday. Surely he’s not going to show a petty mean streak when Newcastle open their doors to the chap from the Sunderland Echo? Ashley’s behaviour, clearly, takes the biscuit.
A FEW weeks ago in this column, I chided those mean-spirited commentators who were less than gracious about Lewis Hamilton after his Formula One world championship win. Former editor Sir Max Hastings even said Hamilton should not be considered for a knighthood because he now resided in Monaco.
Against a backdrop of sniping, I thought Hamilton had no more chance of winning the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award in 2014 than when he was snubbed following his first world title win six years ago.
I’m delighted to be proved wrong. The British public refused to be influenced by those who think they can sway their opinion.