Outrage at Newcastle sponsorship deal

Newcastle United have been heavily criticised for their new £24 million sponsorship deal with the Wonga payday loan company. Supporters, local MPs and the leader of Newcastle city council have all spoken out against the controversial connection.

Nick Forbes, the council leader, described Wonga as "a legal loan shark", and said he was "appalled and sickened" that Newcastle were accepting the money from such a company. Chi Onwurah, the MP for Newcastle Central, tweeted: "Some of the richest young men in Newcastle to wear shirts calling on the poorest to go to a legal loan shark."

Michael Martin, the editor of the True Faith Newcastle fanzine, described the sponsorship deal as "shameful". "I really don't understand what the club is about any more", he said.

It is the latest controversial act by owner Mike Ashley, who has already outraged fans by changing the stadium name from St James’ Park and offering naming rights to sponsors. Wonga’s plan is to restore the original name. The club’s chief executive Derek Llambias defended the deal.

"We are building a club that can regularly compete for top honours at the highest level," Llambias said. "As everyone knows, a strong commercial programme is vital to this goal and I am delighted to welcome Wonga into the fold as our lead commercial partner."

Wonga already has involvement with football by way of sponsorship deals with Blackpool and Hearts but has been the subject of heavy scrutiny due to the very high interest rates it charges on its cash loans. The Football Supporters' Federation has already called for the football authorities to ban Wonga from advertising or sponsorship.

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