Following confirmation that Newcastle United have concluded a 4 year commercial sponsorship deal with payday loans company Wonga today, Opposition Liberal Democrat councillors on Newcastle City Council are encouraging the company and the club to demonstrate a greater commitment to social responsibility by allocating part of the sponsorship package to local debt advice and financial inclusion initiatives on Tyneside.
Lib Dem spokesman Cllr Greg Stone said "We understand that major commercial sponsorship is important to the financial stability and competitiveness of Premiership clubs, and we recognise this decision is ultimately one for Newcastle United to take, not politicians. However, we also understand the concerns expressed by fans about this arrangement. There is widely acknowledged anxiety over the spread of payday loans companies and rising personal debt problems, not to mention pressure on hard-pressed mums and dads to take out a loan this Christmas to afford a new "Wonga" sponsored team shirt.
We fear an "open goal" has been missed in today's announcement. Whereas Wonga has promised to contribute up to £1.5 million to the club's youth academy and to a youth enterprise project, an even more positive signal could be sent out by including a similar financial commitment to local financial inclusion projects and debt advice services. Such a gesture would enable the club and its sponsor to visibly repay the support of the local community, not exploit it."