Former Guardian columnist (now Insideworldfootball), Matt Scott has given what appears to be a detailed argument as to why Ashley is good for Newcastle United. We would be mad to drive him out. As a piece of satire, it is admirable. However, it is not clear that satire is what was intended. The argument is laden with statistics. 

The Guardian is of course noted for its position, at one extreme of a narrow spectrum of the broadsheet press in terms of political opinion. The Guardian started its life in Manchester, the Manchester Guardian carrying the first citation of a now commonly used quote from Arthur James Balfour, 1st Earl of Balfour, 29th June 1892: "there are three kinds of falsehoods, lies, damned lies and statistics". 

Before addressing a selection of the points raised by Scott, there are some important principles with statistics. One of the keys is perspective. Scott is not transparent about the perspective that he adopts in compiling statistics. Another is to identify the range under consideration, more of which later. A further crucial element in interpretation is relative comparison. It is easy to see where Scott loses context. 

That Scott is not a supporter of Newcastle United becomes obvious. In an attempt to show that Newcastle are not a top club, he produces the following graph of our post war league position:

He describes it as having "all the pulsing volatility of a cardiogram" but is a little unclear about his statistical techniques. In a broader context, Newcastle United have never been out of the top two tiers of English football. 

Scott highlights that over the period he has selected, Newcastle have indeed spent 22% of their time outside the top flight. As is apparent, from his own graph, a significant proportion of those seasons was from the late 1970s to early 1990s. This is where context is badly missing. 

Wherever Matt Scott was in the 1980s, being an Arsenal supporter, it might be assumed the affluent South East, he overlooks what was happening in the region. These were the Thatcher years, where the national economy remodelled itself. Deindustrialisation in an industrial heartland had effects that were reflected in the fortunes of the football club. Other great clubs from great cities, such as Sheffield, have yet to reclaim their sporting place. 

A different perspective on Ashley's tenure can be represented in another era, that of the modern media financed Premier League. Before Ashley, Newcastle United were among the top 4 clubs in terms of Champions League experience. 

Re-working Scott's graph gives us a different view of the Premier League years, the data showing the last 20 years:

Adopting this perspective, we can see that after Ashley's arrival, performance has deteriorated with just 1 season above 10th (14%) as compared to 6 (46%) over the previous period. Seasons outside the top flight are 14% for Ashley, 0% before. 

Scott also ignores FA Cup runs, but that is a different story. 

He then goes on to selectively quote from the Ashleyout.com website. To add perspective, Ashleyout.com do not necessarily represent all Newcastle's shades of grey. As a site that has consistently supported Joey Barton's rehabilitation, we are in the change or go camp (although we are pleased to protest with them) and have set out a blueprint for Ashley himself. Scott ignores many of the excellent points that Ashleyout.com also state. 

Scott makes the rather spurious observation that club debt is to Ashley. In different contexts, this does provide potential tax benefits to Ashley. In the event of transfer of ownership, the debts would have to be repaid in the same way that Ashley had to pay Sir John Hall, whose loan went towards ground redevelopment, which has gone no further under Ashley. Indeed, the sale of land now restricts that future possibility. 

Also in context, Ashley could have done what other Premier League club owners have done, recapitalise so that the debt is absorbed. Ashley has his own reasons for controlling liquidity, as he has at Rangers. 

Scott then turns to revenues. He seems to suggest tat a drop in match day revenue is a good thing: "this is a real-terms, post-inflation drop in per-game ticket revenue of almost 25% ..... what's the beef?" 

No, Mr Scott, your analysis is flawed. Just as the recent election debate has centred on distribution of income, some of the very rich getting very much richer, the majority on middle and lower incomes have seen no improvement in quality of life. The real terms cut is not evenly distributed, with tickets that once cost £200+ for a match package (including catering) being sold to students for £16 or less. 

The lower revenues further reflect a lack of quality on the pitch, lessening demand for an inferior product and are more than compensated for, from Ashley's perspective, by cost cutting in other areas.

For a man who seemed keen to demean our post war record in the league, Scott conveniently selects just one season's accounts to say commercial revenues have not fallen significantly. Similarly, he has picked an abnormal season for wage costs. He also conveniently neglects the context of other Premier League clubs when he justifies free advertising for Ashley's other brands. 

There are some factors that have been severely overlooked. Newcastle are in the Premier League and profitable. Other clubs with a fraction of the support, have also become profitable, largely due to factors beyond management. The external environment of inflated media income has helped their cause. 

Similarly, we should look at what those other clubs have done. The likes of Stoke Southampton and Swansea have invested, as has the rest of the Premier League, in building squads capable of maintaining that high income. Relatively, Newcastle United have fallen behind before our eyes. 

Other factors that have not been measured are the overall health of the club, incuding the feelgood factor among supporters who have been used to entertaining, attractive, passionate football. The decibels are definitely down whist children with replice kit have been turned into billboards for loan sharks. 

It may have been intended as a satirical piece, in which case well done. Satire depends on being highly selective. On the other hand, it may be a piece that has been written to provoke, based on the ignorance (either active or passive) that comes from a lack of depth. 

The perspective and context are missing, statistical analysis is myopic. You have effectively given us the good news/bad news. Even if we only have 24 hours to live, our dentures will last for 20 years.