Newcastle supporters call off planned boycott of Wolves clash over fears it might hinder Mike Ashley's sale of club

The Magpie Group had been urging supporters to stay away from the match at St James' Park as part of their campaign against Mike Ashley.

But after Toon owner Ashley revealed on Sky News on Monday that talks to sell are "at a more progressed stage than they had ever been", this weekend's protest has been parked.

In a statement, the Magpie Group said: "After careful consideration, we have decided to postpone the boycott to a later date.

"A provisional date has been set for United’s home game against Huddersfield Town in February.

"This decision has not been taken lightly and was made in response to Mike Ashley’s appearance on Sky News on Monday night and further revelations in the media since.

"Although we continue to have very deep reservations about Mike Ashley’s resolve to sell, we understand that any protest activity which could have a negative implication on Sunday’s result could jeopardise the potential sale of the club.

"Alongside this, we will be suspending all protest activity at Newcastle United games until after the closure of the January transfer window.

"This suspension period is designed to allow Mike Ashley and any potential investors a clear run at reaching a deal, an outcome which, needless to say, provided the stimulus for the inception of The Magpie Group in the first place.

"If a takeover has not been completed by the end of this period, then protest activity will resume at the away game against Tottenham Hotspur in early February."

The Magpie Group was formed in the summer in a bid to drive Ashley out of Newcastle.

They have arranged a number of protests against the Sports Direct tycoon this season, including an 11th-minute walk-in last weekend against West Ham – although only a few hundred fans took part.

A consortium led by Peter Kenyon is in talks to buy the Toon from Ashley.

But SunSport revealed yesterday that the ex-Manchester United and Chelsea chief executive has still not got the financial backing to make a formal bid.

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MPs want resignation of boss of disabled car charity with £1.7m salary

Ministers call for resignation of fat cat boss of disabled car charity with £1.7m salary after his secret £2m bonus is revealed

  • Mike Betts lives in a £5m riverside apartment overlooking Tower Bridge, London
  • Motability is publicly-funded and supplies vehicles to wheelchair users
  • The charity has hoarded  £2.4bn – enough for seven new hospitals or 30 schools
  • Ministers say Mr Betts could be held in contempt if he kept his bonus quiet

Mike Betts reportedly took a £2m bonus on top of his £1.7m salary, pictured here with his wife Julie 

The fat cat boss of a firm that supplies taxpayer-funded cars to the disabled faced calls to quit last night over claims he was given a secret £2million bonus.

Mike Betts, who earns £1.7million a year as chief executive of publicly-funded Motability, came under fire from senior politicians from all sides.

Nicky Morgan, a former Conservative Cabinet minister, said: ‘If reports that Mr Betts was awarded a bonus of £2million in addition to his very large salary are correct, clearly he should consider his position. It is hard to see how it could be justified.’

Another politician threatened to put Motability and Mr Betts ‘on trial’ and charge them with contempt of Parliament over claims that the full scale of his pay was kept from MPs.

The warning was made by Frank Field, who is chairman of the Commons work and pensions committee.

His panel conducted a joint inquiry into Motability fat cats’ pay with Mrs Morgan’s Treasury committee.

He said: ‘If it is correct an undisclosed bonus of £2million is going to Mr Betts, we will need to consider whether to bring Motability back before us for contempt, given that they may not have provided us with full information on salary packages when they appeared before us.

‘We will want to ask Mr Betts to clarify the scale of his earnings and whether the full facts were kept from us.’

Mr Betts’ pay was heavily criticised earlier this year in a joint inquiry by Mr Field and Mrs Morgan’s Commons committees, which called his multi-million pound earnings ‘grotesque’.

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The Daily Mail revealed on Tuesday that the extra £2million is said to have been promised to Mr Betts for his work as head of Motability, a charitable scheme that supplies vehicles to wheelchair users and others in return for part of their benefits.

Mr Betts, who lives in a £5million riverside apartment overlooking Tower Bridge in London, earns 11 times more than Theresa May.

Insiders say the £2million bonus was agreed five years ago, but has not come to light until now.

Chairman Neil Johnson (right) and CEO Mike Betts (left) arrive for Parliamentary select committee hearing into their cash stockpiling at the charitable car scheme for the disabled in March 2018

It is thought that Mr Betts will be entitled to the vast sum, which is not related to his pension, in the ‘near future’.

The revelation comes after the Mail reported in February the scandal at the heart of Motability, which was set up in 1977 to help disabled people get around by leasing a car, scooter or powered wheelchair.

This newspaper revealed how the charity, which gets all its money indirectly from the state purse, is hoarding £2.4billion of public money – enough to pay for seven new hospitals or 30 new schools.

The then-work and pensions secretary Esther McVey ordered three inquiries as a result of the Mail’s revelations, including one by the National Audit Office, which is due to be published tomorrow.

Last night Labour peer Lord Rooker said: ‘Mr Betts and all the directors should consider their positions. There is no justification for this sort of money being taken for running a public service.’

Tory MP Nigel Mills, who sits on the Commons public accounts committee, added: ‘I would be very concerned about this enormous bonus, and if it is true then there is only one option which would be to have a wholesale change at the top.

‘My constituents will be horrified that basically a charity boss is getting not only £1.7million in pay but a £2million bonus on top.

Motability Operations Ltd offices at Gate House, Southwark Bridge Road in London

‘It would be bad enough for a high-flying banker, but what Mr Betts is running is not a risky business – he is getting taxpayers’ money to run a charitable service for the disabled.’

Motability, which was founded in 1977, supplies more than 600,000 vehicles.

Its customers’ £58-a-week mobility benefits are paid directly to the company, in return for a new vehicle.

Motability gets £2billion a year in disabled benefits and income from the second-hand car market when vehicles are sold after three years.

It also receives £750million-a-year tax relief which stops private competition.

The firm is owned by Barclays, Lloyds, RBS and HSBC and borrows from them to buy new cars for its fleet.

A Motability spokesman has said that full details of Mr Betts’ pay had been given to MPs, adding: ‘Our reporting of all executive remuneration is fully in line with the Companies Act.’

Mr Betts received a mauling when he appeared before Mr Field’s panel in Parliament nine months ago.

Mr Field lambasted him over the ‘large, large, large amount of money going into your pocket’, adding: ‘It is an affront to the disabled – cars for the disabled is bread and butter stuff. It just needs intelligent book-keeping.’

There was no mention of a £2million bonus at the time.

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