Newcastle United’s decision to agree a sponsorship deal with loan company Wonga has prompted an angry reaction in the North East.
The football club has signed a four-year deal with the company, which will include sponsoring the team’s shirt for the 2013/14 season.
But civic leaders and MPs from the region have condemned the decision.
Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council, said the deal represented a profit at any price culture at the club and warned of the possible social consequences.
He said: “I’m appalled and sickened that they would sign a deal with a legal loan shark.
“We see the devastating consequences of people getting into financial difficulty and we spend a lot of money each year helping people who are in debt through companies like this.
“It’s a sad indictment of the profit-at-any-price culture at Newcastle United.
“We are fighting hard to tackle legal and illegal loan sharking, and having a company like this right across the city on every football shirt that’s sold undermines all our work.”
Mr Forbes said he feared the need for debt support in the city could now increase and that he will write to the club and ask them to help pay for it.
He said: “I fear the long-term social consequences of the decision and I will be writing to (Newcastle Utd owner) Mike Ashley and asking for him to fund the extra debt advice that we will need to provide as a result.
“Newcastle United is a role model for thousands of people so what they do matters.
“It sets the tone for the city and I don’t want this to be a city built on an image of cheap and irresponsible debt.”
Ian Lavery, MP for Wansbeck, is a season ticket holder at the club but has said he will now not set foot in the stadium.
He said: “A city like Newcastle and the region should not have any ties with an organisation like Wonga.
“This business makes profits off the back of deprived people who are desperate and who are the most vulnerable in society.
“It’s an absolute outrage and I now won’t set foot into the stadium.”
Chi Onwurah, 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.”
Derek Llambias, managing director of Newcastle United, said: “We are building a club that can regularly compete for top honours at the highest level.
“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, alongside Puma and Sports Direct.
“Throughout our discussions Wonga’s desire to help us invest in our young playing talent, the local community and new fan initiatives really impressed us and stood them apart from other candidates.”
Errol Damelin, founder and CEO of Wonga said: “We’re really proud to be involved with Newcastle United.
“It is one of the biggest and most important clubs in the UK by any measure and has a fantastic following around the world.
“We’re also really excited about investing in future stars both on and off the field. The Academy and the Enterprise Scheme gives us the opportunity to make a big difference.”