The situation that we now find ourselves in is all Mike Ashley’s making. He chose to appoint Joe Kinnear; he allowed Kinnear free reign to make the announcement without notifying anyone at the club; he allowed Kinnear to go back on Talksport and continue to release information about his appointment, his position within the club and the imminent change of job description of the MD Derek Llambias. He also allowed Kinnear to explain the new transfer policy that the club would adopt; everything going through Kinnear himself.
Throughout his time at NE1 Ashley has never publicly uttered a single word about his plans for the club; instead choosing to speak through first Chris Mort and then Derek Llambias. His inner sanctum of advisors has fluctuated between the very public (Wise, Jiminez) to the very private. He has sacked or lost 5 managers (Allardyce, Keegan, Kinnear, Houghton, Shearer), paid millions in compensation to managers and back room staff; taken platitudes and stick in unequal proportion; had the club dragged through the courts; seen us relegated from and promoted back to the Premier League; taken us on a European journey that was long on enjoyment but ultimately impacted on our fight for Premier League survival by a failure to provide his manager with a squad capable of competing on both domestic and European fronts. We have seen sponsors come and go. More go, if utterances about our commercial position are anything to go by. We’ve had the fuss concerning the ground name; the new club shirt sponsors, transfer policy, ticketing arrangements for away travel, the ban on watching training sessions and reserve fixtures, the abandonment of L7 signing section, heavy handed stewarding, issues concerning standing in the Gallowgate Corner and a general perception that some at the club simply enjoy rubbing our noses in the dirt.
We have been told that we are following the Arsenal model (16 consecutive seasons in the Champions' League), the Aston Villa model (a youth policy based on Academy A status); the Liverpool model (is there such a thing?). Thankfully we have never been informed that we are following the Sunderland model !
We have been left sometimes dazed, sometimes confused; sometimes ecstatic and at other times bereft of an understanding of where we are heading. We have praised, we have berated, we’ve screamed and we’ve at times protested but as supporters we have continued to support the team as we always have and always will; loyalty comes as part of our birthright; we are born into it and we carry it with dignity and pride in equal measure.
We have supporters who simply want to attend on match days. We have others who see results as the be all and end all of everything. Some attend religiously home and away, never missing a game. Others just do home games and some simply dip in and dip out when the desire of finances allow. Some no longer attend; be it for work, family, financial or personal reasons but each and every one of them remain supporters; carrying with them the passion during 90 minutes with the same strength of belonging as the next man.
That is the beauty of being a Geordie; being a Newcastle Supporter. Being part of something collective. We feed off the oxygen of the club; eat sleep and drink its movements, utterances, publicity, products, success and failure. We talk football incessantly; we talk Newcastle United even more. And when our club is wounded we feel wounded too. When it doesn’t talk to us we feel rebuked; when it is successful we feel buoyed and we buzz. Success being measured in victories not trophies, obviously.
But because Mike Ashley hasn’t uttered a single word to supporters in six years and hasn’t explained a single decision that he has made for the “benefit and stability” of the club, many feel angry; take it personal and start to question motives. A void is created and without the oxygen of communication the void starts to get filled for many with a fear, a loathing and a desire to seek answers; a desire for change.
The change that NUFCFANS UNITED seeks is a change in attitude; a removal of the mistrust that exists between Mike Ashley and supporters; a desire to help the club realize the importance of direct and positive communication and a desire to see success. That’s why we set the group up; convinced by Malcolm Dix that in the long term, club and supporter needed to listen to each other.
The recent appointment of a fans' liaison officer was a great start and Lee Marshall, with the backing of Derek Llambias (now departed) and the support of PR officer Wendy Taylor. Lee is doing a great job building a set up based on trust and a sound understanding how important communication is. Indeed, Derek himself was working his way slowly into the task and in recent months was pulling in the right direction; engaging once more with supporters with grace and courtesy; and having met with him I warmed to his change of approach. Don’t get me wrong; he was no saint and I’m sure that his single minded approach to some issues would have remained and would not necessarily have been for the good for the club (my opinion). But with commercial finances starting to come into to the club I think he was finally being released from the shackles that Mike Ashley’s business plan held him to.
We know Derek’s departure was not anticipated by either himself or his staff and his successor needs to build on the important work that Lee and Wendy were implementing through fan liaison; ensuring that supporters views are taken as of paramount importance in decision making in the future for the benefit of everyone associated with Newcastle United.
NUFC FANS UNITED hold monthly meetings. Our meetings are open to anyone to attend; we have an agenda that lays down topics for discussion; we don’t shape or develop opinion; we simply provide the vehicle for supporters to come together to discuss issues or concerns; listen to opinions and see those opinions, concerns and issues fed back to the club for consideration. We ask people to join as “members” simply so that we can e mail them and invite them to bring forward agenda points before each meeting. Our last meeting saw an abundance of opinion put forward with various levels of passion; none more so than by the MAOC group. The meeting provided them with a platform and they put forward a motion to those attending that endorsed their own opinion on Mike Ashley’s Suitability to be the custodian of Newcastle United. Many in the room agreed and their motion was passed on a show of hands. That group will no doubt now carry on with its campaigning in whatever manner they see fit; good luck to them. They’ve started the debate and already social networks will be fuelling that debate as we crawl towards the first fixtures of the season. If there is such a thing as a Mike Ashley In Campaign (MAIC) then they too will be given the same opportunity as MOAC if they so wish; come along; talk, be listened too and run their counter campaign. That’s what NUFC FANS UNITED is all about; providing supporters with a vehicle to have their opinion heard and listened to by the club and if anyone has a problem with that then there is probably little we can say or do that will be of benefit to them.
NUFC FANS UNITED won’t run campaigns for change; we won’t be holding protest rallies and we won’t be calling for anyone’s head; that’s not our purpose. But we will continue to provide fans with a platform for their concerns to be presented to the club and help their fans' liaison team in the best way we can.
NUFC FANS UNITED
Newcastle United fans united under one banner at the Tyneside Irish Centre last night to discuss the best way forward in opening communications with owner Mike Ashley and the Club. Twelve groups were in attendance which included various fanzine editors, website administrators, and social media operators who all put there views forward on various topics that had affected fans and that the fans felt they would like answers to. The coalition of supporters calling themselves 'NUFC Fans United' invited honorary president at Newcastle United Malcolm Dix to the meeting and asked him if he would act as a link between the group and the club over the coming months. Also in attendance at the meeting was Lord Mayor of Newcastle Councillor Geoff O'Brien who was an elected member of the Fans Liaison Committee that met regularly with the club under the previous ownership. Topics covered at the meeting included fans being displaced from Level 7, the clubs change in stance with regards to fans applying for tickets for games away from St James Park, and how the club has dealt with fans direct debit payments in the pre-season. The group will be releasing there minutes from the meeting via the various websites and publications today and you can find them here www.nufcfansutd.com
The group will be meeting on a monthly basis. Those wishing to attend are asked to email 'NUFC Fans United' to reserve there place. All groups and views are welcome.
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.
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.
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!
United For Newcastle
appreciate that a ten-year “price freeze
” on season tickets and the introduction of a discount scheme will benefit a lot of Newcastle supporters. In this tough economic climate, fans will be thankful of discounts and price freezes, and as such we welcome this move. However, alongside the ten-year price freeze, the club have also announced a change to the plans at the stadium, the most-talked about being the changes to Level 7 of the Leazes End, and transforming it into part of an enlarged family area.United for Newcastle
feel that by breaking up the fans in Level 7 of the Leazes End, the hierarchy at the club has shown a significant lack of consideration towards some of the loudest, and most passionate supporters in the stadium. This, alongside the fact that the generally quieter family section will now replace the fans in Level 7, shows just how poorly thought out a decision this is. Let’s not forget it was under Ashley’s ownership that the club announced “the Leazes Corner, is for fans who are willing to sing and generate a generally very noisy atmosphere.”
Scrapping this 'singing corner' will, we believe, be of detrimental effect to the atmosphere within St. James Park.United for Newcastle
also ask where fans from Level 7 will be expected to go? Will the club suggest a new location for the ‘singing section’, where all fans are also happy to stand during matches? We understand there are no plans to relocate the singing section. We ask why? These are questions fans are asking, and want answers for.
The new plans also include the proposal for the away support allocation to increase from 2,800 to 4,000 seats. Just how many clubs visiting St James’ sell out their current allocation, let alone 4,000 tickets? Considering that it is only in crunch-ties and against large clubs that the away allocation seems to sell out, United for Newcastle
are concerned that allowing fewer Newcastle fans into the stadium in these important matches will have a detrimental impact on the players on the pitch, who rely on the fans' fantastic support. United for Newcastle
will thus write an open letter to the club and local journalists urging talks between the administration at Newcastle United and supporters, particularly those who will lose their seats in the Level 7 section of the Leazes End. We hope that the club will match our expectations by - if not reconsidering the move - to suggest a suitable replacement for the singing section (with some already suggesting Level 4 of the Leazes End as a possible replacement).
This is an issue that we hope can be solved quickly and efficiently for the benefit of both the club, and its supporters.Follow United for Newcastle on Twitter @UtdForNewcastle and on Facebook http://on.fb.me/htxu5b