NEWCASTLE UNITED have been criticised for continuing to claim money via the Government’s furlough scheme despite being in line for more than £100m of broadcasting and prize-money payments this season.

An ITV news investigation has obtained figures from HMRC that reveal that four Premier League clubs were claiming money via the Government’s coronavirus job retention scheme during the period covered by the treasury’s most recently-available figures, which relate to December.

The precise details of the payments have not been disclosed, but the HMRC figures reveal that Newcastle claimed between £100,000 and £250,000 in December. Leeds United were also in that band, while Burnley and Sheffield United claimed between £10,000 and £25,000 in the same month.

Newcastle first furloughed staff when the Government’s compensation scheme was announced last March, and while it is not known whether the club has had employees on furlough throughout the last 12 months, the ITV investigation confirms they were still receiving money from the public purse as recently as December.

As a registered company, Newcastle are entitled to claim money via the job retention scheme, but the ethics of top-flight football clubs receiving what is effectively a public subsidy have been questioned on a number of occasions over the last year.

Premier League and Championship clubs claimed more than £13m in the first four months of the job retention scheme, a figure that caused controversy at the time and that was further questioned when the summer transfer window witnessed significant spending on transfer fees and wages.

Newcastle spent £20m to sign Callum Wilson from Bournemouth last summer, and also signed Jamal Lewis from Norwich City for an undisclosed fee, which is understood to have been around £15m, as well as recruiting Ryan Fraser and Jeff Hendrick as free agents.

A number of Premier league clubs including Liverpool and Tottenham backtracked on an initial decision to use the furlough scheme when criticism mounted, but Newcastle, who declined to comment on the ITV investigation figures, have opted to continue furloughing staff.

MP Julian Knight, chair of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, said: “These figures from HMRC clearly show that £13m was claimed in furlough by Premier League and Championship clubs in just four months.

“At that time, we on the committee called out clubs for using Government money to pay their non-playing staff while at the same time paying top wages to star players.

“We called for the Premier League to put a stop to it – and for the Chancellor to impose a windfall tax if clubs refused. The Premier League clearly has questions to answer, and should be held accountable.”

Last year, Knight called on the Premier League to help bail out clubs that were struggling in the lower leagues and said it would be "an absurdity" for public money to prop up football given the huge sums paid in multi-billion pound television deals at the top end of the game.

After a series of discussions that became increasingly heated, the Premier League eventually agreed to a £250 rescue package for clubs in the Football League