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Wonga deal could lead to Newcastle's Muslim players boycotting shirt
NEWCASTLE United’s Muslim players are being urged to boycott shirts bearing the name of the club’s controversial new main sponsor.
The club has been widely criticised since signing a fouryear deal, said to be worth £24m, with online payday lender Wonga, which charges the equivalent of a 4,214 annual percentage rate on its short-term loans.
The Muslim Council of Britain has warned that charging interest is prohibited by Sharia Law and that adherents must not benefit from lending or receiving money.
High-profile Newcastle players Demba Ba, Papiss Cisse, Cheick Tiote and Hatem Ben Arfa are practising Muslims.
They could follow the example of fellow Muslim Freddie Kanoute who refused to wear the shirt of sponsor 888.com, a betting website, after he joined Spanish side Sevilia from Tottenham in 2005 and wore a jersey without the firm’s logo.
Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: ‘The idea is to protect the vulnerable and the needy from exploitation by the rich and powerful.
“‘Freddie was allowed to wear a top without the 888.com and that is a reasonable request to be made by the player.
“Assuming all four are on the pitch at the same time, if you have seven out of 11 (with advertising on their shirts) you have sufficient coverage.
It is not asking too much, I believe.”
The club’s spokeswoman declined to comment, but one club insider said: “The club’s shirts are currently sponsored by Virgin Money and before that by the Northern Rock. Both of those are lenders who charge interest.”
Wonga, which says the actual interest it charges on loans is 360 per cent, has announced the club’s ground will revert to being called St James’ Park.
Politicians, including Darlington’s Labour MP Jenny Chapman, who are campaigning against payday lenders, have criticised the club for working with a “legal loan shark” – but the club said the deal will give it a brighter future and allow it to develop its academy.
Meanwhile, online money management website My- MoneyPA has cancelled customer hospitality it was planning at a forthcoming match at St James’ Park because of the Wonga sponsorship.
Managing director Glenn Morrill said: “As a Newcastle United supporter, I am particularly upset about the sponsorship deal and will not attend any matches at St James’ Park while Wonga are involved in the club.”