Minutes from 7.11.11

Attendees: Zahra, Duncan J, Graeme C, Martin W, Kevin M, Matty P, Brett C, Steve W, Malcolm D, Tom L, Ian C, Steve H, Paul R, Gary R, Dave A, Dennis T.

Apologies: Bill C; Neil M; Jamie F; Simon E (NUFC), 

Before we launched into the formal meeting, it was agreed that NUFC Fans United wish to acknowledge Newcastle United’s current form on the pitch. The record equaling start to the season is a source of great pride for all Newcastle United fans and NUFC Fans United feel that it is only right that the Club be praised for this success on field. 

We also take note of the clubs recent statements concerning the direction it is taking with regards to club finances and the making of amends for errors of the past. We support their endeavours in this regard and hope that supporters and club can work together to build a sound platform for two way communication with the club on the basis of our shared desire for success both on and off the field. Newcastle, united – can never be defeated.

Tickets For Troops - resolutions/ ongoing
Following the recent announcement by the club and their gesture towards the Tickets For Troops Initiative, it was agreed that we need to close the loop as far as NUFC Fans Utd is concerned. There is still the matter of a number of Fiorentina Ticket stubs that we have already collected or had donated. It was agreed that (after consulting fans who donated) we should select another local charity who might benefit from any remaining tickets; possibly one locally that works with former military personnel; as this is in keeping with the original spirit of the initiative.  We have set an informal deadline of the end of 2011 to finalise arrangements.

Christmas Party - yes/ no - resolutions
After a short discussion it was agreed that as we are still in our infancy as a group and as we are already into November that any pre Christmas get together should be an informal affair - in a pub somewhere in Newcastle. Dates and venues suggested included The Bridge Hotel on December 3rd (after Chelsea H).  This will be finalised and announced as soon as possible on our website and via Facebook and Twitter

Til I Die Book Series Participation
Til I Die is a series of books cataloguing fan memories from various football clubs. Fans are invited to write about their experiences and memories of supporting their club and as a many as possible will see their words in print. As a fans coalition, we have been approached to participate in the pending Newcastle United edition. It was agreed that we should open this up to as wide an NUFC fan base as possible and use our resources to help this happen and we will shortly announce how fans can get involved. 

Jackie Milburn/ Alan Shearer Statue
Local sculptor Tom Maley (whose previous work includes a statue of Jackie Milburn) has put together a proposal for a new piece that he would like to see commissioned in Newcastle.  This new artwork would consist of life size statues of Alan Shearer and Jackie Milburn on 5m high plinths that would stand on St James’ Boulevard, near Gallowgate; joined by a 10.5m arch of footballs.  He is currently in discussion with Newcastle Council and Nexus and would like our support in helping to publicise his idea in the hope of getting support for the installation to be in place in time for next year’s Olympic football tournament.  A short film with 3D rendering of the artwork will be posted on the NUFC Fans United website in the next few days to allow fans to provide feedback on the proposal and show their support. 

Fans Liaison Officer
“The introduction of a new UEFA licensing requirement from season 2012/13 for all clubs to have an operating supporter liaison officer (SLO) marks an important new chapter in club-supporter relations and emphasises how important this relationship is considered.

Under Article 35 of the new UEFA Club Licensing and Financial Fair Play Regulations, clubs will have the obligation to appoint an SLO to ensure a proper and constructive dialogue between a club and its fans. The move is the result of close cooperation between European football's governing body and Supporters Direct – the body that provides guidance and backing to fan groups in 17 countries throughout Europe. 

Supporter liaison officers at clubs already exist in a limited number of European countries and primarily help improve the dialogue between the fans and the clubs they follow. Most importantly, SLOs must be credible with supporters, and therefore should have experience with, and contacts to, the networks in the club's fan base.”

The above is taken directly from UEFA’s own website (uefa.com) 

Other than the statement above, little seems to be known about how this role will be implemented at a practical level or the emphasis clubs will place upon the requirement in terms of appointing the right person into the role. Questions raised include; should the SLO role be filled by an ex player or a prominent local personality; someone with experience from within the local business or political arena, or even an outsider with a background in diplomacy, mediation PR or be from a sporting background?

If an SLO is a role that needs to be filled by the club then we feel that now may be a good opportunity for supporters to help the club understand how all parties see the role being fulfilled and by what type of candidate. Is this a role that fans think should be appointed or elected? What function should the incumbent serve?  What do we (the fans) want from a supporter liaison officer?   

With this in mind we think it might be useful to canvas further opinion than our own on the role and how Newcastle United fans may wish to see this role at the Club filled. It was agreed that we will conduct a poll to get feedback from as broad a cross section of the NUFC fan base as is possible.  This will run from the NUFC Fans United website and will be online shortly.  We will be looking to share this poll as wide as possible and will actively be linking up with other fans’ groups to make this possible.

There have been a number of reports of pockets of racist and islamophobic abuse occurring at recent away games.  Although these are still being seen as isolated incidents it was agreed that as a fan base all Newcastle United fans need to be vigilant to prevent this behaviour spreading and hence bringing our support into disrepute.  Self policing is always the best policy - but this is often not possible, especially at away grounds, when the even stewards witnessing such racism do nothing to intervene. We understand that humour can often be misinterpreted, but blatant racism cannot.

With last weekend’s Sammy Ameobi incident, the Club demonstrated that it can and will act decisively when racist incidents are brought to its attention, and this is to be applauded.  However there is a vast difference between tweet reporting incidents to the Club and getting up the courage to stand up to small pockets sitting or standing among in the fan base and indulging in racist comments or chants.   

We welcome and invite the Club’s thoughts on the best way to manage this situation.  Often people are scared or worried about reporting incidents for fear of reprisals, how does the Club propose helping fans in this respect?  It was suggested that some form of anonymous reporting portal (along the lines of ethicspoint.com) could be a useful tool to help facilitate reporting . This type of portal is used successfully in many employer institutions to good effect and perhaps this is something the Club can investigate?

We must stress that at present we do feel that these are isolated incidents and we hope they are not part of a growing trend, however there was genuine concern shown that as a group, Newcastle United fans may all be “tarred with the same brush” if we do not stand together with the club and work to eradicate such intolerant behavior.

Bring Back The Scarves

This initiative is seen as still being important in helping to improve the atmosphere at St James’ Park. We will continue to push it and we are currently exploring sponsorship opportunities with local businesses to see if some form of discounted scarf loyalty scheme is feasible. We encourage ideas from fans on how this can be developed and we are actively asking for sponsors.

Website Articles/ blogs, links, publicity
It was suggested that as a group NUFC Fans United does not make full use of its website. We had an open discussion to come up with some ideas as to how we can improve our web presence. It was agreed that we should be generating a load more content by way of articles and blogs as well as improving the visibility and popularity of the forum.  Another suggestion was to introduce weekly or monthly features from NUFC Fans’ groups from other parts of the country or world.  This and other suggestions will be looked into and we should see a much improved website in the coming months.

Club Discount Season Ticket Policy
It was agreed that although we understand and appreciate the gesture by the Club of offering discounted season tickets to friends and family of existing season ticket holders, the scale of the discounts and the way in which the Club announced and handled the scheme, has left many existing season ticket holders feeling disgruntled.  We all want to see a full St James’ Park at every home game and we agree that this offer by the Club has helped significantly towards achieving this goal. However it was felt that some acknowledgement or reward for those who did not need such an incentive to buy a season ticket would be a fantastic gesture from the Club. This gesture does not have to be massively expensive for the Club and would go some way towards easing the feelings of resentment, discounted cup tickets was one suggestion mentioned.

Away Ticket Allocation
It is noticed that as a club we appear to be getting significantly less away tickets than in the past and many are questioning whether there is a reason for this.  Frequent and long term away day fans feel that we could easily sell more than our paltry allocations for Man City and Man Utd and we question whether this is this a long term trend to not take full allocations; Is this a league wide trend or a decision that the Club have made in isolation?

Also with regard to away tickets, NUFC Fans United condemns the minority of fans who caused disruption at Darlington in the pre season. As a consequence, the Club implemented a members/ST only policy for away tickets and at the time it was announced that this policy was being adopted “until further notice” - will the Club be removing these sanctions any time soon? Or is this now a permanent policy?

A suggestion was received that we may wish to consider the streaming of our meetings over the internet for those unable to attend. However at the current time those present felt this to be unfeasible.  Audio recording and podcasting was also suggested - however it is felt that both options will bring a degree of formality to the proceedings that we feel will be detrimental to our group at the present time.  This will be reviewed in the future.

Representatives from United For Newcastle gave a short presentation on the small North East based charity Josie’s Dragonfly Trust; an organization that makes funds available for children with terminal cancer.  It was agreed that we would help United For Newcastle in their fundraising endeavours for this worthwhile local charity.  Also United For Newcastle wish to let Newcastle United fans know that there are a limited number of Great North Run places available for next year for anyone wishing to raise funds for the charity via sponsorship. Please contact unitedfornewcastle@gmail.com for more information.

It was agreed that a structure would be put forward for discussion concerning a number of initiatives and ideas that had been suggested by individuals that may be of interest to supporters. These include contact with expat fans overseas and fans throughout the UK that can allow them to feed in to the Newcastle Fans United discussion process through the network of fan group affiliations 

Time and date of next meeting TBC

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