Please note that all our reports on Newcastle United are now provided at Football Economy
I want to discuss here some of the problems that Newcastle has faced since flotation as almost emblematic of the difficulties that can arise as the result of the transformation of football into a business. What has happened at Newcastle is bad for the club's fans (estimated at 1.45 million in the UK), but we may also be able to draw broader lessons.
Lat year's successful season led to record profits and turnover for the club in the year to 31 July 2003. Turnover was up from £70.9m to £96.7m. Pre-tax profits were £4.37m compared with losses of £3.08m last time. At the operating level, before player amortisation and trading, profits were £27.6m as against £48,000. Participation in last year's Champions League competition had added £19m to turnover, reflected in income from television and broadcasting almost doubling to £41.7m. The club's wages-to-turnove ratio was 47 per cent, below the 50 per cent limit recommended by accountants Deloitte and Touche. A final dividend of 2.04p was recommended, leaving the total for the year unchanged at 3.07p. Whether this year's so far less successful season will yield such good results remains to be seen, but in the short term the shares closed up 5p at 36.5p.
The club also revealed that it is in negotiations with producer Lawrence Bender about featuring in a trilogy of football-related Hollywood films. Chairman Freddy Shepherd said that the film would give the club 'enormous publicity' in new markets such as Asia.11/10/03
Newcastle shares were hit on 30 September by rumours that Sir Bobby Robson was to resign as manager after the disappointing start the season which had left the club in a relegation position. The club lost a fifth of its value on the stock market before rallying to close 7.6 per cent lower after the club issued a denial of the reports.1/10/03
Newcastle are still in contention for the Premiership title and certainly should be assured of a Champions League place. Having seen them beat Charlton a few weeks ago, I would have to admit that they are looking impressive. Half-year results to 31 December show a pre-tax profit of £9.18m on turnover of £56.2m, an increase of 56 per cent on the same period last year. Participation in the Champions League produced a 126 per cent jump in television revenues to £21.5m, but wages and salaries increased by nearly a half to £21.5m. The club's shares have gone up 45 per cent from their 2002 lows, although going private remains on the agenda.
Investors Chronicle is normally sceptical about football shares but comments, 'this club looks good value.' However, although Newcastle may be close to Manchester United in the Premiership, the club 'is several divisions behind the Red Devils in investment terms. ... while its rival could afford to spend millions on new players without any strain, Newcastle's balance sheet and cash flow are nowhere near as strong.'
Newcastle United cut its pre-tax losses from £8.85m to £3.08m in the year ending 31 July 2002. Buoyant television income saw turnover rise faster than expenses. Turnover was up from £54.9m to £70.9m. Participation in the early stages of the Champions League alone should boost turnover by £8m and profits by £6m this year.
There will be a final dividend of 2.27p per share, with an unchanged total of 3.07p. On the share price in March 2003 (at 30-33p a fraction of the 135p flotation price), this gives an attractive yield of 9.7 per cent. The main beneficiaries will be the Shepherd and Hall families who, through a number of different vehicles, are believed to control approaching 70 per cent of the club. The club would argue that it has maintained a consistent dividend policy in line with the growing strength of the business. There have been repeated rumours that the families would like to take the club private. However, chairman Freddy Shepherd said that 'The directors have never, ever discussed that in the boardroom.' Any suggestion that they might have discussed it elsewhere would be purely speculative.
Despite the relatively good results, it should be noted that the wage bill was up 20 per cent, and accounted for 45 per cent of turnover. However, that is within the 50 per cent limit recommended by accountants Deloitte and Touche. Moreover, the playing squad is valued at £153m which includes £20m for players who have graduated from youth soccer. This compares with a book value of players acquired of £53.2m. Debt levels were significantly reducedin November 2001 when £21m of NTL's loans were converted into deferred shares carrying no voting or dividend rights.
Newcastle admit in their annual report that the lack of independence on their board fails to comply with the Financial Service Authority's Code of Best Practice for Stock Market companies, as does the absence of an independent renumeration committee to decide directors' salaries. They are also failing to follow best practice relating to directors' bonuses. The FSA's rule 12.43(a) requires a company which has not complied with the Code to 'give reasons for any non-compliance', but Newcastle's annual report fails to explain these deficiencies.
Questions have been raised about a subsidiary company, Newcastle United Football Club (International) which has been registered in the offshore tax haven of Gibraltar. The club has said that this subsidiary is involving in expanding the club brand overseas, especially in China and the Far East, but it is unclear why this has to be done through Gibraltar. Work done for this company led to a £524,427 payment last year to Douglas Hall who is a tax exile. Colin Whittle, a solicitor and supporter who contributes to the True Faith fanzine, commented, 'We want to know what on earth this Gibraltar company is for; what work Douglas Hall is doing for his half a million pounds.'
He also commented, 'The directors' pay packets simply look excessive, and it's very difficult to see how they can justify paying a dividend. But I can reluctantly accept the money Shepherd is making, because he's clearly there running the club, which is steadily improving. But the salary and bonuses to Hall are mysteries. I cannot see what he has done to justify it.'
The Shepherd family has increased its stake in Newcastle, renewing speculation that the club may go private. The shares rallied, sending them to their highest level for a year. The Shepherds increased their stake from 18 per cent to more than 21 per cent by purchasing shares from Legal & General through a related company called Shepherd Offshore. It is believed that Newcastle's relegation from the FTSE Small-Cap Index to the Fledgling companies index late last year prompted Legal & General to look for a buyer for its shares.
The Shepherd family increased its stake in the coub from 8 to 18 per cent in October. Together with executive director Douglas Hall, Freddie Shepherd now effectively controls more than 60 per cent of the equity. It has been suggested that the two directors have grown frustrated with the poor performance of the company's share price. Standing at 25p after the rally, they were 210p five years ago. However, analysts believe that raising the funds necessary to buy the shares from disgruntled shareholders to enable the company to go private may not be easy.
According to the Sunday Times Business Section, Douglas Hall, the biggest investor in the Magpies, has failed in an attempt to become club chairman. He was blocked by John Fender, a former City banker, who resigned abruptly as chairman. Fender was due to come up for re-election as a non-executive director at the end of May. It is believed that Gibraltar based Hall told Fender he would support his re-election only if Fender agreed to Hall taking over as chairman. It is reported that Fender refused to accept this and resign.
Since the so-called Toongate scandal, Shepherd has worked to rebuild his reputation, cooperating closely with Bobby Robson. However, the Sunday Times points out, 'Fender, the longest-serving director, is the fourth chairman in five years to leave the group; as a result Newcastle's image among institutional investors is in tatters.'
Things have not been going too well for the Magpies on the pitch recently and the first half results (to 31 January) have shown an interim pre-tax loss of £1.37m compared with a five per cent profit last time. This was in spite of a 11 per cent increase in turnover to £35.8m. The increase in sales was largely driven by a 37 per cent increase in television revenus to £9.5m, although sponsorship, merchandise and catering revenues also improved. This led to underlying operating profits up 16 per cent at £7.9m. However, that shrinks to just £1.4m after the cost of writing off goodwill on player values. Heavy interest charges then pushed Newcastle into pre-tax losses. In addition, the deficit on player trading was up. Responding to criticism when it held its full year dividend, the club has cut the interim dividend from 1.03p to 0.8p. With directors building up their stake, speculation that the club could be taken private continues.
Four Newcastle United directors have received bonuses worth more than £400,000 despite the company recently reporting a full year loss of £8.9m. The bonuses were paid to four directors, including Freddie Shepherd and Douglas Hall, who control more than sixty per cent of the club. It was argued that the payments were not out of line with similar ones made elsewhere.
Mr Shepherd, the chairman of the football club board, received a £150,000 bonus, taking his salary to £238,788. The club said that the bonus reflected his move from a part-time to a full-time executive. Mr Hall, a non-executive director, was given a bonus of £75,000, taking his pay from £35,000 to £110,000.
The club was criticised recently when it maintained its full-year dividend. As largest shareholders, Mr Hall and Mr Shepherd received dividends of £2.12m and £360,000 respectively.
The Shepherd family has increased its stake in Newcastle United in a move thought likely to boost the chances of the club leaving the Stock Exchange and becoming a private company. Shepherd Offshore bought 14.3 million shares at 30.225p. They were acquired from Premium TV, the wholly-owned subsidiary of NTL. This took the Shepherd stake to 26.1m shares, representing 18 per cent of the company. It brought to almost two-thirds the proportion of Newcastle's shares in the hands of the Shepherd and Hall families. Hall family interests are understood to own 47.8 per cent of the shares, split between three different vehicles.
The restructuring of Newcastle's partnership with NTL must increase the chances of the club going private. NTL is heavily in debt and, according to the Financial Times concerns have been expressed about what is known in financial circles as the company's 'funding gap'.
The deal will see the creation of a 50:50 joint venture between the club and Premium TV which is a wholly owned subsidiary of NTL. This joint venture would be granted a range of media rights including the right to create a club TV channel similar to that run by a Manchester club who were defeated at St.James's Park. It will also amend the terms of a £25m convertible loan that could have enabled NTL to double its stake in Newcastle. Instead, the bulk of the loan is to be converted into a new class of unlisted deferred shares.
Plans to end Newcastle's Stock Exchange listing and turn the club into a private company have been denied by Newcastle chairman John Fender. However, what he denied was that the issue had been discussed at board level. Reports in the Financial Times referred to Douglas Hall and Freddie Shepherd, who control over 50 per cent of the shares, sounding out bankers about the possibilities. They are reported to have become frustrated with the languishing share price. The reports also suggested that talks had been held with NTL, the heavily-indebted cable operator about the disposal of its stake in the club. The club is now valued on the stock market at around £40 million compared with £190 million when it was floated in 1997.
Full year results saw another pre-tax loss. However, turnover was up from £45.1m to £54.9m, reflecting increased match day income from the enlarged stadium. Revenues from media activities rose from £13.1m to £14.7m and will continue to grow as new Premiership contracts kick in. The club sold a number of players in the year to 31 July and claimed that the squad size was now at a more sustainable level. Newcastle said that its wage bill was 45 per cent of turnover, comfortably within the 50 per cent maximum recommended by accountants Deloitte and Touche. Despite the losses, the final dividend was held at 2.04p, lifting the total to 3.07p.
Newcastle crept back into the black in the six months to 31 January 2001. The loss in the last comparable period was £1.3m. Profits at the operating level before player trading rose to £6.8m. Turnover was £32.2m, compared with £28.1m for the same period the previous year. Ticket revenues were up considerably because of the addition of 15,000 seats. For the full year, profits before player trading are forecast at £6m, compared with just over three quarters of a million last time.
Wages are anticipated to be under 50 per cent of turnover for the whole year in line with the level recommended by accountants Deloitte & Touche. Wages were held at £12.6m but it is claimed that they would fall by the end of the full year to reflect players sold during the period. The sale of players such as Duncan Ferguson eased pressure on the club's wages bill which was thought to be getting out of control.
The Financial Times commented, 'Newcastle has been one of the more turbulent of football club stocks never really recovering from a series of damaging public relations incidents a couple of years ago. [Chief executive David Stonehouse] is aware of the need to get supporter backing if sentiment towards the shares is to improve. Additionally, the club will have to spend on players to bring success on the pitch, which is not likely to impress potential investors.' But without spending it is difficult to see the club having a more successful season next year. There is no doubt what Toon fans would want, but even in business terms, the way forward is something of a dilemma.
The leading financial journal Investors Chronicle has some harsh things to say about the way in which the club is run in its 14 April issue. Commenting on the latest results, it states, 'The depressed share price [62p mid-April] reflects mistrust of the management in the City. This is hardly surprising after the shenanigans of the last two years. Sensibly the club has recognised the need to beef up the management team. However it shot itself in the foot when it decided to antagonise its 4,000 bond holders.'
Freddie Fletcher, an unpopular figure with fans, is to stand down from the dual role of Newcastle's chairman and chief executive (he will stay on as a non-executive director). Newcastle have poached David Stonehouse, Sunderland's finance director, to replace him.
Some comment sees the arrival of Mr Stonehouse as an attempt to improve supporter relations. Sunderland's fan relations policy has been built around low replica kit prices and an inclusive ticketing policy that has attracted an above average number of women and young supporters.
Fletcher became the target of fans' fury in recent months following the 'Save our Seats' row. Fletcher commented, 'I think we handled it badly and we've said that publicly. But I think the decision was right.'
Newcastle won a high court case against a group of their own supporters in the Save our Seats campaign, but are seen by many commentators to have scored an own goal in public relations terms. Indeed, while welcoming the verdict, the club admitted in a statement that there had been 'mistakes' in the way in which the matter had been handled. Moreover, the fans were given leave to appeal and may yet raise the funds to do so.
The case revolved around the club's request to bondholders to either give up their existing seats and move elsewhere in the ground or pay £1,350 a year to remain in their current seats which the club wanted to use for corporate hospitality areas (see earlier story below).
The case turned in part on the question of whether it was 'a seat' or 'the seat' that was bonded. Mr Justice Blackburne said that clause 9B of the conditions allowed the club to vary the seats offered. He said that he would like to have reached a different conclusion having witnessed the fans' 'intensity of feeling'. The judge gave the fans leave to appeal on the basis that the club had misrepresented the benefits of the ten year bond. The case has already cost the six fans a considerable amount, despite a donation from The News of the World which paid for a legal insurance premium providing cover of £118,000. They will need more money to pursue an appeal. However, in late March it was announced that an appeal had been lodged. It is expected to be heard by the Court of Appeal in mid-May.
Kevin Keegan was to have appeared in court on behalf of the fans, but a legal ruling confined him to a written statement. Keegan's statement made it clear how much fans coveted their seats, often taking as much as two or three hours to make their choice.
The leader of the supporter litigants, Jane Duffy, was reported as stating that the judge's ruling meant that no ordinary fan was safe from the 'relentless corporatisation of football stadiums'. She argued, 'This ruling, if unchallenged, would change irrevocably the nature of football, legitimising the replacing by corporate interests of genuine supporters.' One might argue that football has changed already and one Newcastle supporter I talked to was more worried by their 0-1 defeat at home to Chelsea.
In one positive step, the club has announced that the academic Rogan Taylor, founder of the Football Supporters Association, will be carrying out a study of ways the club can improve its supporter liaison. It is surely needed. Some fans are suspicious of the timing, but Taylor says, 'This is an opportunity to create a better relationship with fans at the club which could hardly have ballsed it up worse if they had set out to do so deliberately.' One idea that Taylor has is the election of supporter representatives who would be consulted by the club (which falls short of the 'fan on the board' scheme at Charlton.
Sports minister Kate Hoey has commented on the dispute, arguing that it highlights the need for stronger regulation. She commented, 'The Newcastle case highlights a situation where, rather than have to take legal action, a regulator might settle disputes between supporters and club.'
Newcastle United has signed a deal with Premium TV, a wholly owned subsidiary of NTL, to act as agent for all of Newcastle's media and commercial rights. In return the club gets an interest free loan of £25 million. Under the deal NTL increased its holding in the club to 9.8 per cent. Premium will also become Newcastle's main shirt sponsor from the 2000-2001 season, replacing the long running deal with Scottish and Newcastle (although that relationship may continue in other ways).
Newcastle United has angered some supporters by setting aside areas of the ground near to bars for corporate users paying top ticket prices. Thousands of ordinary season ticket holders have been told that they must pay £1,350 for a seat in their area next season or move higher up in the stands. The Newcastle United Independent Supporters Association is organising a protest meeting and exploring whether there is any legal redress. One committee member who paid £776 for season tickets for himself and his son this year has been told that he must fork out £2,700 to remain in the same area next season. He commented, 'Legally the club may be correct in what they are doing but morally they are in the gutter.'
There may be a legal remedy, however, with solicitors issuing proceedings against the club in the High Court in Leeds in December 1999 on behalf of bondhoder Jane Duffy, leader of the Save our Seats Campaign. Ms Duffy is seeking an injunction to protect her current seat and a ruling that the £500 bond she bought in 1994 entitles her to a specific seat. Bondholders believed that they had purchased the right to a specific seat for ten years, but the club insists that the guarantee extends only to a seat.
With the appointment of Bobby Robson and the 8-0 victory over Sheffield Wednesday, Newcastle fans must now be hoping for the kind of footballing success such a genuine and dedicated bunch of fans deserve. On the financial front, Newcastle has become the first football club to securitise its commercial revenue streams by issuing a £55m bond that will be backed by income from future ticket sales and corporate hospitality receipts. The money will help to pay for the reconstruction of St.James's Park which is already under way and which will boost capacity from 38,000 to 51,000. This work was previously funded by a £40m bank loan. Asset based securities have long been used to raise money in the business world but are relatively new to football. The bond is repayable in annual instalments of £6m between 2001 and 2016 and has a weighted fixed interest rate of 7.43 per cent, by no means onerous, particularly if rates rise.
After a period when the bid from cable tv operators NTL for Newcastle seemed to be off because of the Monopolies and Mergers Commission decision on Manchester United, the bid is back on. After the Government signalled that they would not oppose all media bids for clubs, shares in Newcastle (140p at peak) leapt 22 per cent in a day from 69.5p to 85p.
NTL already own 6.3 per cent of Newcastle shares and have an option to purchase the 50.7 per cent held by Cameron Hall Developments. The revival of the bid has been welcomed in the City which has been worried about the large proportion of shares controlled by directors Douglas Hall and Freddy Shepherd.
Earlier report Britain's third largest cable television operator, American firm NTL, have emerged as the bidders for Newcastle. They have paid £10 million for a 6.3 per cent stake in the club and have an option to take control of the company by buying out the rest of the Hall family's shareholding. By taking a small stake in United with an option to buy the rest, NTL stops anyone else from buying the club while not finally commiting itself to taking over. The bid of 111.7p per share is below the flotation price of 135p.
The arrival of digital television makes it important for television companies to have access to attractive programmes. The acquisition of United takes NTL from the business of distribution into the business of content where it owns programme rights. NTL's chief executive admits that he has never been to a Newcastle match and regards himself as a supporter of the New York Giants American football team. But NTL have apparently pledged to pump £15m into Newcastle over five years in order to improve its youth training scheme.
These events followed another few weeks of turbulence at the club which saw their stockbrokers resign along with their ten chairman and two non-executive directors and their corporate governance arrangements criticised in the City. The latest crisis was prompted by the return to the board of disgraced ex-directors Douglas Hall and Freddy Shepherd. At the annual meeting just before Christmas small sharholders vented their anger at Hall by voting overwhelmingly against his return to the board, but proxy votes put him (and Shepherd, who saw a closer card vote) back on the board.
City opinion has been scathing about events at Newcastle. A leisure analyst quoted in Investors Chronicle commented, 'It's a complete joke. It's not the way a PLC should behave and I don't see what future Newcastle has as a public company ... It just shows how family interests can ride roughshod over the interests of smaller shareholders.' The influential Lex column in the Financial Times reflecting on the comparison between the bid and the launch prices comments, 'Such is the damage that family fiefdoms can do to corporate values. Newcastle United's revolving boardroom door - nine directors have left since flotation - and a lacklustre performance on the pitch mean that the club has lost City credibility.'
Having said that, it is important to acknowledge the uniqueness of Newcastle as a club. Even the smallest club has its coterie of devoted fans, but few clubs mean as much to the well being of a city and a region as Newcastle does. One reason is that the city has only one club - unlike other major cities such as Birmingham, Bristol, Liverpool and Manchester. But Leeds is a major city and it has only one club and there is not as much intensity of emotion associated with its fortunes. In the case of Newcastle, the decline of traditional industries like shipbuilding and the long-standing economic problems of the North-East mean that the club has a special importance. The club's revival is a sign of Newcastle's revival; its problems are seen as reflecting on the city.
There has been quite a lot of criticism of Newcastle in the financial press since the club was floated. In July 1997 the Financial Times referred to a 'badly handled flotation, a belief that the shares were overpriced on issue, and some unanswered questions about the club's move to a new stadium'. The club eventually dropped a controversial plan to build a new stadium on common land and has decided to refurbish St.James's park instead. The club returned pre-tax profits of £8.3 million in 1996-7. However, wage costs went up from £10.2 million to £15.4 million, illustrating the upward wage pressures that Premiership clubs face if they want to retain their key players.
Not my headline, but the one used by the sober weekly Investors Chronicle in its issue on March 20th. Allegations were made by a Sunday newspaper about the personal and business lives of the chairman, Freddy Shepherd and the vice-chairman, Douglas Hall. What particularly offended Newcastle fans were remarks it is alleged that they made about Newcastle women, the fans who bought club shirts with a large mark up (thought in fact to be 100 per cent rather than 900 per cent) and the club's players. According to the Financial Times these remarks were made 'while visiting foreign brothels.'
To put it mildly, these remarks were very foolish as they damage the Newcastle 'brand'. Of Newcastle's sales of £41.1 million in the year to July 1997, £9 million came from branded products. As the Financial Times remarked, 'Until now, wearing the shirt has been regarded as a mark of loyalty. It may be seen as a badge of naivety instead.' A number of commentators have recalled a jeweller who called his products 'crap', seriously undermined the business and saw his career badly damaged. The Financial Times quoted a football consultant called Alan Fynn who argued that Newcastle had grown too quickly. 'This is a company that in four years has seen its turn over quadrupled. And they have not put in the sorts of checks and balances a business should put in. Those clubs that have floated have rapidly had to become more business-like and they have had problems coming to terms with that.' Of course, the fans may feel that they have had to make a bigger adjustment from being supporters of a team to customers of a business.
When it came to doing anything about this situation, matters were complicated by the fact that the two directors own 64 per cent of the club. The non-executive directors seemed likely to resign if the two didn't go. Following a five hour board meeting on 23rd March, Shepherd and Hall did resign. Part of the deal was that they could appoint two representatives to sit on the non-executive board, but subject to vetting by the independent non-executives. Sir John Hall, the father of Douglas Hall, came back from retirement to chair the club until the end of the season. Mr Hall cannot sell his stake in the club until late this year without the permission of Nat West markets who brokered the flotation.
These moves have restored stability and credibility to the club. What concerns the City - and the fans - is the risk of relegation. As a neutral observer, Newcastle must surely stay in the Premiership. But these events cannot be good for the club's morale or standing. More generally, they show up the powerlessness of the fans - even as customers - when a club is controlled by one or two people.
The resignation in May of chairman Sir Terence Harrison and non-executive director John May took to six the number of resignations from the board since the club was floated thirteen months earlier. Reaction in the City to these developments was very critical, the clear implication being that the club was not being run well. Sir Terence Harrison was said to have wanted the chairman of the football club, Sir John Hall, to step down. He did not see the need for a club subsidiary chairman and wanted the Hall family to reduce its shareholding below 50 per cent to reassure institutional shareholders.
Typical of the City reaction was the response of Nick Bartram, respected football analysts at Greig Middleton: 'Not many companies have lost a joint chief executive, a finance director, a chairman and three non-executive directors in little over a year. It does not matter whether you're a football club or an engineering company, that type of merry go-round on the board is not good for sentiment as far as the City is concerned.' Nick Hawkins at stockbroker Williams de Broe described the corporate structure at Newcastle as 'seriously unbalanced'. He says 'It's difficult where you have an individual with such dominant control who can override anyone in the company.'
The Financial Times roasted the club in an article in its 29 May issue referring to a 'string of public relations disasters' amd arguing that 'Newcastle United has given a masterclass in how not to run a publicly-owned football club.' The share price at the end of May was down to 81.5p, forty per cent below the flotation price. The devoted fans of Newcastle surely deserve better.
Even before the disgraced directors had returned (an event so astonishing that this page felt unable to comment),Investors Chronicle had given Newcastle a strong 'sell' recommendation in June, commenting 'Newcastle has suffered a string of disasters.' They saw part of the problem as being with Newcastle's corporate structure and concluded, 'While the Halls remain dominant, sell.'
Following a draw against Charlton, Dalglish suffered the fate of his predecessor Keegan when Newcastle had drawn at The Valley (similarly, Graham Taylor went at Wolves after a 0-0 draw with Charlton). Ruud Gullit's subsequent appointment as manager initially added £7 million to the value of Newcastle shares against the background of a tumbling market. The Lex column in the Financial Times commented. 'The positive news is a reminder that Newcastle is a sound business. It made about £10m pre-tax profit last year and has £20 - £30m in the bank. While expanding its stadium will cost £42m over two years, extra revenues of up to £15m a year fully justify this investment.'
The Magpies are planning to secure a bond issue against annual season ticket income of £12 million to finance their ground expansion. If the bond issue goes ahead it will be the first time a football club has raised funds through securitisation. Newcastle's finance director explained in language likely to be easily understood by fans: 'We are considering a sterling bond or a rated debt instrument securitised against the gate receipts. The rated debt instrument is the most likely at the moment because it is a non-recourse.' Securitisation is a complex form of financing but what it means is that Newcastle would receive cash up front in return for signing away gate receipts for several years. The predictability of income from season ticket holders means securitisation is a logical choice, but the small size of the deal means that Newcastle is likely to face hefty fees.
Last updated 11/10/03.