While alcohol is far from harmless, Newcastle Brown Ale’s star with its silhouette of the city comes from a simpler time.
From next season the word Wonga will be plastered across Newcastle’s black and white stripes. It is an ugly word, and an ugly company to be advertising.
Launched in 2007 as an online provider of short-term loans Wonga.com provides amounts of up to less than £1,000 for maximum of a month.
Its Annual Percentage rate (APR), the interest rate for a whole year on a loan, is 4,214%. That astonishing number is a little misleading as Wonga only offers loans for up to 30 days, with a rate of around 36 per cent interest, but this can still mean eye-watering final payments.
If a Newcastle supporter took out a Wonga loan to pay for a £49.99 home shirt it would cost £71.92 in 30 days time. If it were possible to pay back a Wonga loans in a year, that same shirt would cost £2,107.
Compare this with the option of buying a shirt on a credit card before paying it off in its entirety 30 days later for £49.99, then remember that lots of people from low-income communities cannot secure credit cards and are most likely to default on loans, then understand why Wonga is looked upon unfavourably.
Its cutesy website is all gentle pastels, childlike sliders, soft fonts and geriatric advert puppets espousing on the lack of hidden charges. Wonga claims that its clients are “normal” people with “cashflow problems,” but the sort of debt and circumstances which people to lead to short-term lenders is rarely so tidy.
For the seven per cent of Wonga borrowers that default on their loans, a ruined credit rating awaits. This makes it unlikely they will ever be able to borrow money, get a mortgage or sign a mobile phone contract again.
Newcastle is a traditionally working-class city where, according to the department of health, a third of children still live in poverty, 12 per cent higher than the national average.
Statistics from the government's Insolvency Service show that the North East has the highest personal insolvency rate of anywhere in the country, at 35.2 per 10,000 adults, compared to a rate of 29.6 in the North West and 17.5 in London.
Newcastle United pursuing a sponsor which so blatantly profits from the misery of not having enough money tells you plenty about the current state of football, and the ownership of Mike Ashley.
Unfortunately Newcastle’s deal with Wonga has recent precedents. Hearts carry
the company as their shirt sponsor, as do Blackpool, who wore the Wonga logo
during their only season in the
Chris Walker, editor of Blackpool site
“Ultimately though, whatever opposition there is, fans of most clubs are powerless to force the owners' hands.
“The only way for supporters to get a message across is to withhold money in the form of season tickets and merchandise, but for the many the emotional ties to their club prevent this.
Walker is correct to flag up the futility of mere disgruntlement to effect change, but Premier and Football League clubs no longer carry advertising for Wonga on their websites after a fan campaign earlier this year.
A Wonga spokesperson responded by saying "We had a small advertising deal with the Football League which ended at the end of the 2011/2012 football season. We will continue to assess all opportunities and sponsorship deals for next season."
It would be such an easy public relations win for Mike Ashley to make a stand against Wonga by not allowing them to further legitimise their morally dubious businesses by appearing as shirt sponsors.
It was never a route the man that re-named St James' Park after the website of his shinpad and tracksuit trousers emporium was going to take.
Should sponsors be subject to the same fit and proper stipulations potential club owners are? Is football as a whole in any way interested in its reputation? Or its moral wellbeing?
Or is it more concerned with the farce of supposedly respectful choreographed handshakes, on-message pre-game banners and making billions and billions of pounds?
Yes, that is a rhetorical question.