Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley has seen his conduct during the coronavirus pandemic questioned again - this time over the club's policy regarding season ticket charges.
On Wednesday, Magpies fans discovered that payments destined for 2020-1 season tickets had been taken from their accounts via direct debit.
In some cases the charge for the entire season was removed, more than £500, in spite of the fact that the current season has been halted due to the pandemic and no official word has been released on when it will restart - or how this will affect proceedings in 2020-1.
The decision to charge fans, moreover, comes at a time when due to the disease and quarantine measures thousands of UK workers face uncertain job futures.
As a result, Newcastle United fan groups – Toon For Change and the Newcastle United Supporters Trust – urged the Magpies to refrain from charging fans at this point.
Their protests fell on deaf ears though, prompting the Supporters Trust to release a stinging letter against Ashley.
“Last week Newcastle United Supporters Trust (NUST) contacted Newcastle United Football Club to express significant concerns regarding Season Ticket payments. We did not receive a response.
"The club stated it has no intention of freezing or delaying payments..."March 25, 2020
“Yesterday we went public with our request for the suspension of all future Season Ticket payments during this incredibly difficult time," the group fired.
“There is no prospect of professional football recommencing any time soon given the current global health crisis, let alone the prospect of understanding the implications on timing on fixtures for next season.
“We find it incredibly disturbing that the club continues to take payments from supporters during these extremely difficult times, in what is a health and economic crisis. Following our call for the suspension and delay of all future Season Ticket payments Newcastle United contacted us earlier today. The club stated it has no intention of freezing or delaying payments, both for those that pay annually and monthly.
“Today, Tuesday 25 March 2020, Newcastle United took payments for the 2020/21 season from those supporters who opt to pay for their season ticket annually. Monthly payments will also continue as normal.
“We are disappointed that Newcastle United is unwilling to offer a meaningful support system to fans through this difficult time. Many supporters can afford to continue to pay, but we still feel more MUST be done for supporters who will suffer most due to the knock on effects of coronavirus global pandemic.
“We are also deeply concerned to learn that some supporters who normally pay monthly have seen the full payment taken today. Any fans in that situation should contact the club immediately."
This is the second time Ashley has found himself under fire in three days, after being criticised for keeping his Sports Direct stores open during the government-mandated quarantine.
The chain eventually closed, despite the owner's initial protestations that they provided a public service in selling exercise and sporting equipment.