Wendy stated that Lee’s role will include PR, highlighting ‘good news’ at NUFC and looking after community and foundation events, However, the role will principally be regarding supporter liaison, and Wendy stated the NUFC Chief Executive, Derek Llambias is “100% committed” to making the supporter liaison role work and address the issue that NUFC’s communication with supporters has been poor.
Lee hopes to begin by meeting supporters, both as fan groups and individuals. He also wants to build the role on the best features of supporter liaison from other clubs, both in England and abroad – particularly Germany; as well as through dialogue with the FA and Premier League on their expectations of the role before he then formulates a new fan’s charter. Wendy said that she expects Lee to draft the plan in approximately one month’s time and make it available for consultation.
Lee hopes to reintroduce the fans’ forum in a format that will be both positive and constructive; building upon what things went well and where it went wrong with previous fans’ forum incarnations. The new fans forum is envisioned to provide truer fan’s representation with fans from all parts of the stadium and all walks of life. As yet, it is undecided how often the forum will meet, but Wendy said it might meet regularly with a head of department (such as herself) and occasionally with the board.
Wendy acknowledged that the club’s relationship with the fans has as times been poor, but that the club want to establish a relationship in which the supporters have access to senior managers and the board. She stated that the club are looking to build and accredit a network of fan groups and supporters’ clubs to help achieve this. Wendy said, that Lee is keen to find out the views of supporters through the use of surveys, discussions and debates.
Everyone welcomed Wendy’s comments and the club’s willingness to engage with supporters and the group re iterated its commitment that NUFC Fans United, should be a ‘critical friend’ to NUFC, establishing a good relationship with the club, but being able to make critical comments to the club if and when needed. It was stated to Wendy that NUFC needs to be honest with the supporters. Steve H asked Wendy to pass on the group’s best wishes to Lee and an invitation for both Lee, Wendy or indeed any other club official(s) to attend future meetings. Wendy said that herself and Lee are keen to attend future meetings.
This issue was discussed briefly at the last meeting in November. Since then, the issue has become more prominent in the news with four Premier League clubs interested in the proposal. The Football Supporters Federation (FSF) have been showcasing a safe standing model similar to that widely used in Germany in which terracing for Bundesliga matches can be converted into seating for European games. The FSF have previously been keen to host at safe standing event at St James’ Park but have not been successful in making the right contacts to make this possible. Steve H offered up to Wendy the possibility of NUFC Fans Utd co hosting an event with the FSF with the support of NUFC on a match day, either at St James’ Park itself, or a venue close by.
Speaking for the club, Wendy stated that safe standing is an issue which Derek Llambias wants Lee Marshall to canvass supporters views upon, so that he is aware of the fans’ views when discussing the matter at Premier League and FA meetings. We welcomed therefore the possibility of exploring with Lee the options available regarding the safe standing debate.
A number of ticketing issues were highlighted to Wendy, including an issue with buying tickets via the website and security issues surrounding accessing and amending people’s details. Wendy was also made aware of zero priced tickets (used by the club itself) which have fallen into the hands of ticket touts. The issue of away matches was discussed as it was felt by some that the away day experience is not as enjoyable as it once was due to the behaviour of some fans.
SUPPORTER SPECIFIC ISSUES
A number of individual supporter specific issues were passed onto Wendy. These issues have come through to the group primarily because supporters have failed to get any redress from individual departments at the club through their own endeavours. A number of suggestions were also put forward for consideration on how the club’s communication could benefit from more proactive, coherent and “joined up” social network practices.
Steve H reiterated the website issue discussed in November regarding ideas for content on the website and links to other fan sites and blogs.
Post meeting responses from NUFC
Manchester City flare incident
The club has previously executed targeted and random searching of away fans, with the exception of clubs categorised as ‘High Risk’ (based on supporter history and intelligence acquired through a variety of means). In this instance, all fans would be searched. Manchester City were not in this category.
Naturally, the safety and security of all supporters in attendance is the club’s priority and as a result of the flare being thrown, the club has since changed its policy to now complete full searches of all away fans.
It is of course worth noting that supporters will often take measures to conceal prohibited items which makes them extremely difficult to identify. In this instance, the flare, which was recovered, was particularly compact and had avoided detection.
Once offending items are identified in the stadium, stewards and security staff will act immediately to prevent any risk of injury or damage and will take the strongest possible action against those breaking Ground Regulations.
Ticket touting (complimentary tickets)
The Box Office manager and head of security are now aware of this issue and steps are subsequently being taken to identify the source as well as marking and tracking the tickets in question. We really appreciate your concern and welcome reports of any similar incidents in future.
As well as surname and postcode, the members’ log-in system also requires the supporter number (aside from the alternative email and password access). Accordingly, this makes it impossible to simply guess to gain access so supporters’ accounts remain secure. The club advises individual account holders to keep their login details private and to not pass them on to others. If you have any further information to add or you feel we’ve missed something, please do let me know.
An idea was put forward for an hour-long Q&A session on Twitter, #nufchour, during which fans can ask questions about Newcastle United (more ticketing, safety, Foundation than transfers and tactics) and they will be answered by the club.
This has now been included in a new Supporter Liaison plan which will be completed shortly.
Club store complaint
A complaint was raised about the club store from a supporter firstly regarding a membership and secondly a branded pint glass which shattered. Please could you pass me the contact details of the person who lodged the complaint? This has been raised with the club’s retail department.
Details received and this has now been brought to a satisfactory conclusion.
Looking forward to attending a meeting soon!
PR and Supporter Liaison Manager
Newcastle United Football Club
DATE AND TIME OF NEXT MEETING
To be confirmed.