Whatever one thinks of the Mags’ owner it’s a clever trick to orchestrate a deal which brings in a fortune for the dubious benefit of allowing something to be called the name everyone uses anyway. This perhaps explains why the signage which was taken down was put into storage and not donated to Alnwick Town as the Northern League team had hoped. The latest sponsorship deal brokered by Mike Ashley has sparked a lot of debate to which Bill Taylor adds his own take.
To paraphrase Private Eye: “Shomething Wonga, Shurely…” or
“What’s Wonga with this picture?” or
“What a bunch of Wongas…” The possibilities are endless.
So it’s small wonder that the Magpies’ new sponsor, the Wonga loan company, is opting to revert to the Sports Direct Arena’s old name. About the worst you can do with St. James’ Park is call it Sid James Park and it’s almost impossible to say that without conjuring up a memory of those crumpled features and dirty laugh and thus leavening your contempt with a measure of fondness.
I’d been hoping that IKEA would want its logo on the Barcodes’ shirts: “Some assembly required… Midfield? That’s on back-order… Oh dear, the manager’s put the team together wrong again; I’m pretty sure that bit’s supposed to go in goal. Pass the Alan (Pardew) key…”
Ah well. We’ll have to make do with Wonga, euphemistically billed as a “short-term loan company,” More commonly (at least where I live) known as payday loan companies, these places dole out smallish sums and charge often usurious rates of interest.
If you are borrowing to get you from payday to payday, it becomes a rapidly diminishing spiral, subject to the cruel law of diminishing returns. The more you borrow, the more you have to pay back, the bigger a chunk it takes out of your wages, so the more you have to borrow…. think of it as how some of the less-well-financed football clubs operate. You’re likely to find yourself down the pawnshop trying to raise a few quid on a part-worn centre-back.
There’s been all kinds of controversy about the deal. It ranges from the evils of adorning children’s replica shirts with the logo of an outfit whose annual percentage rate on loans reportedly can exceed 4,000 per cent, to the possibility of Ba, Ben Arfa, Cissé and Tioté refusing to sport the longo as violating the Sharia law against Muslims benefiting from money lending.
According to a Guardian story, Pardew “quizzed Errol Damelin, Wonga’s South African owner, about the business and emerged satisfied with what he heard: ‘I listened to the owner and their customer satisfaction levels are higher than any other bank or lending facility.’ ”
A quick look at some of the on-line comments (quoted as written) on
www.reviewcentre.com/reviews237290.html reveals another side to the borrowed coin:
“I used wonga around christmas when i was short of cash. I didnt think nothing else of them until months later when i went for car finance and was refused on the grounds useing them!! The finance company looked at my credit file and assumed i cant afford to live due to me taking out the short term loan.. I advise anyone to use wonga at your peril, IT WILL CATCH UP WITH YOU!!”
And: “As someone that has just become a victim of Identity Theft with this ridiculous company, I think it would be more than fair to say that whoever created this money grabbing site needs putting down. Sooner rather than later.”
And: “i have incurred bank charges have unpaid direct debits and wonga are doing very little to sort it out only fobbing people off i will be reporting them to the fsa my advice is to stay away from a company like wonga who cant give answers to thier mistakes and pass the buck”
Passing the buck, fobbing people off, not answering to their mistakes, inappropriate use of huge sums of money… sounds a bit like Premiership football, doesn’t it? (If, by the way, you’re wondering where you might have seen the name Wonga before, it was on Blackpool’s shirts when they played in the upper echelon.)
Some cynics are saying the renaming (or should that be de-naming) of the Sports Direct Arena is a ploy by Wonga to cast a cloud of sentimentality over the whole vexed question. Not everyone is fooled. The BBC reports that, for one, Ian Lavery – MP for Wansbeck and a Mags season-ticketholder – won’t be returning to the stadium, saying, “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.”
Of course, you could say that about the club itself and no one, not up to now anyway, has suggested abolishing NUFC for the public good. Doubtless they’ll soldier on, with or without the Wonga name emblazoned across their chests. And look at it from Mike Ashley’s point of view – he badly needed a sponsorship deal and who knows when he might need a fast loan to tide him over. Don’t be surprised if Wonga opens a cash counter in one corner of the boardroom…