Controversial payday lender Wonga has agreed with Newcastle United to remove its logo from all children's replica shirts and training wear from the 2016/17 season. Wonga said it followed a review of its marketing launched by new chairman Andy Haste in July to ensure that none of it could inadvertently appeal to the very young or vulnerable.
It has already ended its puppet advertising campaign. The company said the logo was being removed from children's kit at the earliest possible opportunity, and that due to kit production schedules this would be from the start of the 2016/17 season - the last season of the current shirt sponsorship deal.
Darryl Bowman, Wonga marketing director said: "As a responsible lender we believe removing our logo from children's replica shirts and training wear is the right thing to do. We appreciate the club's support in this matter." Newcastle United managing director Lee Charnley said: "We understand and respect Wonga's position and are happy to support their decision."
The pay day loans industry has been fiercely criticised by leading figures including the Archbishop of Canterbury, who suffered embarrassment when it was revealed that the Church of England had indirectly invested funds in Wonga. Earlier this year, it had to pay £2.6 million in compensation after chasing struggling customers with fake legal letters to pressurise them into paying up.
But Mr Haste has promised to clean up the company as he admitted it had made "serious mistakes". Wonga said it now expected to become "smaller and less profitable" in the near term following the changes. Last month, it wrote off a total of £220 million worth of debt belonging to 330,000 customers after admitting making loans to people who could not afford to repay them.
Michael Thewlis, of the Newcastle United Supporters' Trust, said: "This is welcome news and something we raised when we met Wonga's representatives and the club 18 months ago. However, when we raised our concerns they were adamant that they would not produce children's replica kit without the Wonga name."
But he said the announcement was "tempered somewhat, when you realise that these unbranded children's shirts will not be available for another 18 months".