Supporting a football club should be easy. You watch football on a match day and then spend the rest of the week in the build up to the following game going about your normal business. But here it isn’t. That’s because for the remaining 6 days of the week we analyse, question, pontificate and generally continuing to be absorbed by and caught up in the maelstrom that is Newcastle United Football Club.

Every word draws you in.  Every decision seems to affect you. On match day you wake up tense; you head to the ground gripped by a mix of hope and apprehension. You kick and head every ball. A win brings out emotions that you would normally share only with an immediate family member (usually your husband or wife); defeat can deflate you to a point of despair.

It is little wonder therefore that events off the pitch impact upon supporters as much as those on the pitch. They are intrinsically linked. Why? Because as supporters we care that’s why. And that’s why, when events spiral in a manner that makes no sense, supporters see the need to call for change.  For many, that point was reached this summer and they believe the time for that change is now.

Those calling for change are normal rank and file supporters. Decent, hard working, honest people. Supporters taking action born out of frustration for what has gone on in the past and as their poster says, they’re marching for ambition. 

This is why we support #Time4Change.  

 
 
OPEN MEETING, NEWCASTLE LABOUR CLUB 

INTRODUCTION AND WELCOME
Steve Hastie gave a brief introduction, outlining the agenda which all attendees received copies of, before introducing Newcastle United’s Supporter Liaison Officer, Lee Marshall.  Lee began by talking about some of the things that have been achieved by the Club working in partnership with Fans United. These include the return of the Gates to St James’ Park and Steve Harper’s 20 Years Charity Match.


FANS FORUM
Lee provided information on the Fans Forum recently announced by the club. He stated that much of the format and views have been shaped following meeting and talking to fans and fan groups. The club want to establish a robust structure for the forum so that it will stand up to scrutiny. They have worked to do this by working in consultation with the Football Supporters Federation who have provided feedback and constructive criticism to the club. They have also looked at examples from other clubs where forums are already operating.  The forum will contain 15 fans. Three of these will be held permanently by established fans groups, NUFC Fans United, Newcastle United Supporters Trust (NUST) and Newcastle United Disabled Supporters Association (NUSDA). 

The 12 remaining fan seats are open to all Newcastle United fans to apply and they will represent different segments of the clubs fans base. These will include season ticket holders in the Milburn, East, Gallowgate and Leazes stands, an Away Season Ticket Holder, A Long Distance Traveller (attending at least five home games a season), a Young Person’s representative (under 21),  an over 65s representative, a supporters club seat (for the secretary or chair of any supporters club containing a minimum of 20 members), a Black and White member (non season ticket holder), a corporate member  and an equality representative. Two board members, John Irving and Lee Charnley will also sit on the panel, along with the club’s heads of safety, security, ticketing and media. The Newcastle United Foundation and Wonga will also be represented. Lee stated that the forum will meet for the first time in September. Lee stated that the introduction of the fans forum does not signal the end of him attending Fans United meetings and that the club will continue to attend.

When questioned about how non-ST holders can be represented by the Fans Forum, Lee explained that that was why the Trust, Fans United and NUDSA have permanent seats on the Forum. We can act as funnels, gathering views and opinion from fans and non-ST holders and feed that back to the Forum.

People were concerned that the Fans Forum is just a UEFA box ticking exercise as UEFA have a directive about improving supporter engagement with Clubs and the Supporter Liaison Officer (in NUFC’s case Lee Marshall) is a UEFA mandated position. Lee accepted this, but went on to explain that although the SLO is a UEFA mandate; the Fans Forum is not. The Fans Forum has been set up to give fans a line of communication with the boardroom, and two senior directors will sit on the Fans Forum when it meets quarterly.

People were also dismayed that Mike Ashley will not be in attendance and once again the question of why he does not address the fans, talk to the fans or explain his plans and motives for the Club to the fans was raised. It was suggested from the floor that Mr Ashley writes the programme notes occasionally as this would provide him with his own unedited platform to tell fans what is happening.

Malcolm Dix, Steve Wraith and Ian Cusack all said at various points that the Forum is great progress, coming from a regime that has had such a poor relationship with the fans; and that it should be given a chance to see what it can achieve. 



YOU TUBE
Linking in with Lee’s information about the Fans Forum, Steve confirmed that Fans United will use our seat on the panel to pass on queries, comments and issued that have been raised by fans through ourselves. In addition to being able to do this via the meetings, social media, website and emails, Steve also announced that Fans United intend to create a You Tube account. This will allow fans to send video comments which will be uploaded to the Fans United website and can be viewed by other fans.


GATES
Both Lee and Steve updated the meeting on the progress of ‘the Gates’. They are currently undergoing restoration which is nearing completion. They are set to be installed on Friday August 23, the day before the first home game of the season against West Ham. There will be an installation ceremony on the day of the game itself.  


TICKETING ISSUES
Issues concerning away ticket allocations have been raised with the club previously through a number of sources including Fans United. The club has not always taken full allocations due to clubs having to reimburse the home club for unsold tickets. The club has pressed the Premier League to change this ruling and has obtained support from a number of other clubs. This has resulted in the Premier League changing the allocation rules to allow away clubs to take up the full allocation without being charged for unsold allocations, which is at present being ratified.

A number of ticketing issues from the floor were raised with Lee, in particular problems experienced as to how tickets are linked (with regards to applying for away games with friends/family members), and also the fact that though season ticket prices are frozen the compulsory membership fees are still rising year on year.

These are issues that Lee will feed back to the club on.


STEWARDING 
Questions were raised with Lee regarding the possibility of allowing fans to bring in flags, banners and surfers. It was noted that on occasions the club and or sponsors have had large scale banners and surfers in the ground, yet fans have not been allowed to bring their own on the grounds of health and safety. Lee agreed that if this is the case, it needs to be looked at. He stated that fans wishing to bring flags and banners should contact the club, to meet with the security team for advice. It was raised from the floor that fans had already done that were generally fobbed off with health and safety commonly being used as an excuse.  Lee invited any fans who would like to work with him on this issue to contact him.

After a point raised from the floor, re flares and smoke bombs, Lee explained that prior to the Man City game all away fans were not routinely searched on entering SJP. Following the flare incident at that game, NUFC changed their policy and ALL away fans are routinely searched.  Steve Hastie added that it might seem hypocritical to outsiders that we complain about away fans bringing flares into the ground when our away support routinely let off flares and smoke bombs during our Europa Cup campaign. Wendy Taylor (NUFC Head of Media) confirmed that NUFC were fined heavily for both flares and streakers by UEFA last season.

Points from Twitter included “why is the stewarding in the Strawberry Corner so aggressive and OTT?”  and “even after Man City, flares were still a problem at SJP”



SINGING SECTION
Calls for the return of a singing section have been brought up with Lee previously and the issue continues to be brought up with Fans United. Lee was asked if he had any further progress on the issue. Lee has fed this back to the club and the matter is being discussed within the club, though he does not have any specific updates or information at this time.  NUFC Fans United will continue to press the Club on this matter.  The consensus from Twitter was if the singing section is to be reinstated can it be located in The Strawberry Corner.


JOE HARVEY
Steve talked about the recent Joe Harvey tribute night.. The organisers have raised £10,000 for a plaque which will be installed at St James’ Park. NUFC Fans United extent their congratulations to the Fairs Club for their sterling work in ensuring that the Joe Harvey Memorial Plaque will be installed.


NUMBER 9 PLATFORM
A new online fanzine, The Number 9 launches in August and hopes to become a platform to promote various NUFC related angles online. The fanzine and Fans United hope to establish a regular #NUFCHour on Twitter to help in this.


ANY OTHER BUSINESS
Lee was asked if there was an update on the issue of the club providing/running its own travel club for away games. No update as yet.

It was also suggested that the club set up regular ‘Footballers Dinners’ events at St James’ to allow fans and players to engage with one another.


WENDY TAYLOR
At the end of the evening Wendy Taylor stood up and explained that although she and Lee might appear to be relatively junior members of staff, they do work at the Club and there aren’t “twenty layers of management” between themselves and Mike Ashley. She meets Mr Ashley “every few weeks” and feeds back what she hears from the fans; “he does get the message”.


The meeting took place on the fourth anniversary of Sir Bobby Robson’s death. It was suggested that in the future a regular pre-season tournament could be established involving Sir Bobby’s previous clubs. This suggestion proved to be popular with those in attendance.

The meeting ended with a minute’s applause in memory of Sir Bobby.
 
 
Written by Dan Greet 3rd September 2011
As I am sure anyone with more than a passing interest in football is aware, Plymouth Argyle are in trouble. Real trouble. The imminent danger of liquidation is all so prominent these days at Home Park. Stories of players not being paid, staff being paid by the manager out of his own pocket, administration, debt and the delays securing the new owners have dominated all news relating to Argyle since March of this year. This nearly came to a head this week when there was talk of the players and staff going on strike and refusing to play today's game at Burton. Fortunately strike action was averted when the players and staff agreed to receive 40% of owed wages now and the remainder on completion of the long overdue takeover by Bishop International Ltd on the understanding that the takeover will be completed by the 31st August 2011. Troubling times indeed for a club who just two short seasons ago were playing in the Championship having steadily increased league position including two promotions between 2000 and 2008.

Enter Brighton and Hove Albion. Back in 1997 Brighton were at their lowest ebb due to the shameful asset stripping of the club by Bill Archer and David Belloti. The club was run into the ground and evicted from its Goldstone Ground home (where they had played since 1902 and is famous for being the stadium where David Beckham made his Manchester United début as a substitute in 1992). The atmosphere at Brighton games during this period was less than warm and  protests and pitch invasions were commonplace. A protest during the Lincoln City game on 1st October 1996 resulted in a two point deduction given by the football league in December. Relegation looked likely at this point and the fan forum (www.northstandchat.com) was overrun with anger directed at the Belloti, Archer and particularly the FA due to their perceived lack of support during this period. Fans of other clubs left messages of support on the forum but none resonated more than a post from a 14 year old boy named Richard Vaughan – a fan of Plymouth Argyle. His post was as follows:

I see the scum FA have now taken 2 points who do they think they are they wouldn’t do this to Man United. It makes me sick what is happening to your club and it’s an insult to your fans. I’m a Plymouth fan and I think that one week when we’re away I`m going to come up and support your protest. I think it would be a good idea if LOADS of fans from different clubs turned up at Brighton (with their shirts on) and joined in it would show that we’re all behind you 100%

The passionate post from the young man brought Albion fans and campaigners against Albion's treatment together and a date was set for the 8th February 1997 for the Hartlepool United game to be the first ever Fans United day. From the previous foggy and anarchic atmosphere that had dogged Brighton games all season came a revelation as thousands of fans from all over the country (and a party from the German club Eintracht Frankfurt) joined together to cheer on the Albion and provide a wonderful atmosphere that helped propel the players to a 5-0 win. Albion went on to survive relegation on goal difference by three goals. How different things might have been should Fans United had never happened! Fourteen years on Albion played Argyle in League One this past February and whilst Richard Vaughan was not able to attend the game, he managed to send Brighton a message which was read out at half time and was very warmly received by both sets of supporters. 

Brighton has always felt a debt of gratitude to Argyle due to the snowball effect caused by young Richard's post and now in an attempt to repay them for the help they provided to Albion at their lowest point they are attempting to return the favour. In the last 24 hours on the very same forum where it all started 14 years ago, Fans Reunited has been born. A grass-roots uprising started by forum member Woodchip has become something of a phenomenon. In just 24 hours, 121 fans have already agreed to make the trip down to Home Park on the 24th September to cheer on Argyle in their match with Macclesfield. And with three weeks to go and the campaign only just getting started and spreading with social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter the number can only multiply. In the day and age where the internet, and more importantly social media, has become an integral part of everyday life the message has a chance to surpass the impact it had all those years ago.

The knock on effect caused by the potential liquidation of Plymouth Argyle through football as a whole could be catastrophic. In an age where footballers earn huge wages and command bigger transfer fees than ever before, a domino effect for lower league sides is a strong possibility. Therefore, as football fans, we need to make this day the biggest event that we can to not only support Plymouth Argyle but also to support the beautiful game as a whole. No club with a history as long as Argyle's have been liquidated before and, whilst other teams have come close (notably Brighton's rival Crystal Palace last year), this would be and could become the first of many. We need to act now to ensure this doesn't happen.

So I implore you, if you are a fan of our great sport, please head down to Home Park, Plymouth on the 24th September wearing the shirt of your preferred team and lets show football that we still care.

To find out more please visit us on Facebook.
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Remember how good Plymouth Argyle where to us when we were promoted?
 
 
This is a press release from our colleagues at the fans' group United For Newcastle. Once again the lads there have done a sterling job in sharing the feedback from their meeting with the club.  Once again it is posted here verbatim.

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Yesterday evening, United For Newcastle spoke to Simon Esland, the Head of Customer Relations at Newcastle United regarding the possible relocation of the Leazes Corner singing section.

Firstly, we asked Simon if he was aware of the petition that we started on February 16, 2011 to which he responded “I know of it, but I haven’t actually taken a look at its content. It would be great to see what it is all about, and what fans are saying.” We explained to him that the purpose of the petition was not encouraging the club to shelve its new seating arrangements for the 2011/12 but to simply relocate the Level Seven singing section to another location in the stadium, with Level Four of Leazes Corner being the most obvious choice.

Simon genuinely seemed impressed that we had exceeded our target of 2,000 signatures (currently, the petition is only 100 names short of 3,000 signatures). In order for Simon to fully understand the petition we have sent it to him and suggested that he reads some of the comments made by fans. We hope this will show the club just how important the singing section is to so many supporters, how strongly people feel about its relocation and its importance to the atmosphere at St James’ Park.

We mentioned to Simon that the singing section was officially announced by the club in May 2008 and suggested that May would be a great time to announce any such plans again. Simon responded “We’re taking the views of fans into consideration, and will be until the end of April. May could be a time for this to happen.”

We felt that it was important to see how the club felt about Leazes Corner and Simon made no secret of his opinion of the fans in that area of the stadium. “The supporters in Leazes Corner create an incredible atmosphere and the section is an important part of the St James’ match day experience. However, until the season ticket situation becomes clearer, which it won’t do until the end of April, we can’t set anything in stone. It would be great to speak again in a month and see what progress we can make”

This gives all of us a whole month to prepare and back the relocation of the singing section as much as possible. This is not only a United For Newcastle initiative, but something that we believe is in the interest of every Newcastle supporter and the club itself.

Ideally, we would have all of St James’ rocking at all times, but not all fans enjoy singing at football matches. In the words of Chris Mort, “Creating a section in the ground where like-minded fans – who enjoy singing – can come together to generate a great atmosphere and get behind the team for 90 minutes."

4-0 up or 0-4 down, if there’s one thing you can predict at St James’ Park it will be the noise coming from the Leazes Corner. We saw the effectiveness of a singing section in the home draw against Arsenal. At 0-4 down, whilst some supporters had their heads in their hands, and others were leaving the stadium, it was the singing section relentlessly spurring the Toon on. When the Leazes and Gallowgate are in full-swing the atmosphere at St James’ is arguably the best in the country and it is us fans who help turn 0-4 down, into a 4-4 draw.

The petition and the relocation of the singing section now has the backing of the NUST, NUFC.com and various other Newcastle United related websites and fanzines. We have also been told that there will be an article in the Evening Chronicle this week about what we are trying to do.

We hope that the club will realise that the relocation of the singing section is the right thing to do, to ensure St James’ Park keeps the atmosphere that not only makes us famous around the world, but will always inspire those playing in the black and white.

The team at United For Newcastle would like to thank everybody for their continued support of the group and the petition, we hope to have a website soon.

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I would like to personally extend my gratitude to the team at United For Newcastle who have once again been proactive in their dealings with Newcastle United and have been generous in sharing the details of their meeting. Thanks lads - keep it up!