Our meeting with Simon Esland, Head of Customer Relations at the club was very useful.
We gleaned the following points:
- The club has guaranteed us they will, at very least, “look into relocating the singing section in another part of the stadium”, likely Leazes but they'll look at the entire situation.
- The increased away tickets are indeed due to having to comply with Premier League regulations, the minimum they can offer being 3,000. The reason the maximum away capacity is now 4,000 is simply for evening matches where it's on TV, and they feel they won't sell the stadium out, so they can offer more to away fans and hopefully make more money. In games like the Sunderland matches, they'll definitely not be given to the away team.
- The Carroll money will be reinvested, and the club are looking for more Tiote type players. Quality players that they can get for reasonable prices. Just because they have a lot of money, does not mean they'll splash out over the odds for someone. Everyone in the club is aware that they are light, and “strikers are a priority.” They've also pin-pointed several areas that need cover, and will attempt to acquire decent cover in the summer. They accept that they need better players in order to push for Europe.
- The club's ambition is to steadily improve. They want success on the pitch, but won't bankrupt to do it. The apparent stinginess is simply Ashley's way of doing things. The club now breaks even every month, and isn't taking loans out. They want to be in good shape for the UEFA rules on finances for when they do get back into Europe. Wherever they finish this year, next year they will aim to better it.
- Much of the club's investment goes on behind the scenes. For instance, apparently they are going to (or have) under-soil heated the training ground for the winter.
- The club have offered Enrique a new deal, and will sit down with him to discuss. Whether he wants to sign or not is up to him. They have a wage structure, with a cap which they wouldn't confirm the amount of. Enrique's deal will be within that structure, but 'fair' for the structure that's in place.
- The club confirm they are not a selling club, but as with any football club, every player has their price. The only other circumstance in which they'll sell is if the player says they want to go. They don't want anyone who doesn't want to play for the shirt.
- The club have confirmed they want to hold on to the likes of Barton, Coloccini, Enrique and Tiote, but admit it will be a “difficult summer”. The club suggested that it's a testament to their progress that people actually want to sign their players now, unlike during the relegation season when half the team wouldn't have been touched by another club.
- The club's ambition is steady, sustainable progress that aims for Europe.
- The club insist the 10-year season ticket is a good deal, with the option to opt out at any time. There is no catch. The club has updated their ticketing system so all customers can now pay with direct debit which wasn't possible before due to staff limitations and technical limitations. Even if the club reaches the Champions League in five years, those prices will be the same under the deal.
- The club accept their communication has been, at times, insufficient, and we suggested they look to put more information on the official club site. The club said they gave lots of information to newspapers and media, but accepted that they could not control if it was published. We suggested that in order to rebuild trust with the fan base, they should go above and beyond the call of duty for a while, in order to rebuild that support through transparency and integrity. The club said there would still be “situations they would not comment on”, ie. Carroll leaving, since they have their stance and won't get drawn into an argument on it.
- The club accepts that “mistakes have been made in the past, and says that mistakes are still likely to be made in the future”. But that is ‘human error’, and everyone in the club has one aim: success on the pitch, and that is the long-term goal.
- With regards to SportsDirect sponsorship, the club insist that money does go to the club from SportsDirect, and since Ashley does not own SD but is merely a majority shareholder, it is not simply a case of moving money from one pocket to another. The club does benefit.
- The advertising on the Gallowgate roof and the dug-out seats is to advertise the stadium's potential for advertisers. When pressed for an example of when any of those packages have actually been sold to another company, they did not have one.
- The money that comes in from this advertising is all used to keep the club breaking even financially.
NOTE TO EDITORS
Please make sure you include the below at the end of the dialogue
“It was a productive meeting, with several points put across effectively from both sides. Unfortunately, the club would not confirm that they would take a strategy to communicate more effectively with any great enthusiasm however, they have promised to us that they will attempt to relocate the singing section rather than let it go. We hope that this meeting will help us form an effective relationship between us and Newcastle United, to ensure the voices of fans can be heard by the club on a regular basis.”
United For Newcastle