It was agreed that this is being caused by a clash of fan culture brought about by the disbanding of Level 7. The trouble was predicted by many fans when the closing of Level 7 was announced. Level 7‘ers are not hooligans but like to stand, sing and be generally noisy, which is at odds with fans from more sedate parts of the ground. It was agreed that much of the atmosphere in the ground (especially during the Championship season) was kept alive by the Level 7 fans. Now however that section has been re-allocated and the fans from that area dispersed around the ground (esp into the Gallowgate Corner) this has resulted in many ugly incidents with NUFC fans fighting each other.
LETTER FROM FAN WHO WITNESSED TWO 16 YEAR OLD EX L7‘ERS ASSUALTED AT ARSENAL GAME BY MIDDLE AGED GALLOWGATE INCUMBENTS.
What is the reason for the Level 7 move? The reasons given by the club ring false ie:
- The need to accommodate more away fans (why when our away allocations have been reduced?)
- The need to increase family/ young people seating (not working still many empty seats)
It was agreed that this is still a pressing issue that needs to be fully addressed and answered by the Club rather than just being swept under the carpet of Health and Safety Regulation and over-aggressive stewarding, especially as the atmosphere at St James’ Park has suffered since the disbanding of the Level 7 Singing Corner.
The Chronicle has covered the Gallowgate incidents at the Arsenal game but from a sensationalist and divisive angle. NUFC Fans United propose that there are two sides to the situation and the flash points could have been avoided if the Club had listened to the fans’ concerns before bulldozing on with the Level 7 move. Perhaps we could get case studies/ testimonials from both sides (legal actions permitting) to illustrate both sides of the argument and bring better understanding to all parties?
NUFC Fans United would like the Club to explain the thinking behind the closure of the Level 7 Singing Section and consider sensible action to remedy the problems and the backlash created by the closure rather than threatening blanket bans.
2. Response to Newcastle United sign being removed/ replaced
Do we know what the new signage will be? Malcolm Dix suggested the signage was old and worn. Other suggested that it will be replaced by a crest flanked by Sports Direct adverts. Steve Wraith said that he doesn’t have an issue with this in principle, but it depends on the terms of the deals being arranged between NUFC and SD. Are they full commercial deals? The most recent accounts showed £47,000 from Sports Direct was paid to NUFC for the “sponsorship” arrangements, this seems to be a very small sum compared to the reported £10m that Arsenal receive(d).
What are Mr Ashley’s long term intentions for the Club? And how do they play into these sponsorship deals? Is NUFC being tied up to long term low worth sponsorship deals with Sports Direct that will pass on with any potential new ownership of the Club?
3. Fiorentina match ticket stubs update and match selection.
Steve Hastie proposed that fans may need an incentive to give up their stubs for other people. He suggested linking up with Help For Heroes via the RNR and various regiments to offer the stubs/ tickets to returning servicemen/ servicewomen. Malcolm Dix proposed also tying up with the NUFC Community Foundation to increase ticket numbers. All agreed it would be great to have a bank of uniformed personnel at a match.
We also need confirmation of what matches are Category C - proposed talking to the Club to find out.
4. Bring back the scarves.
It was agreed that this has been a success so far - but that it needs to be pushed properly and in a sustained manner for the rest of the season. It was suggested that as the weather turns colder it will be easier to encourage more fans to bring scarves. Also it was proposed that we talk to a number of popular pre-match pubs to see if we can get a commercial tie in that would give fans free/ subsidised branded scarves. The Club seemed to latch onto the campaign for the Fulham game and had posters in the Club Shops. This is seen as a sign that the Club does listen and act on fans’ ideas when it convenient for them to do so. Perhaps we should CC them into the delivery list for minutes form our meetings and invite them (ie Wendy Taylor and Simon Esland) to our meetings in future?
5. Neil Mitchell has been asked to submit questions to the club via The Evening Chronicle. We are looking for suggestions.
Neil reported that the Club had shifted the goal posts and changed the deadline for receipt of questions to noon on September 5th (the day of this meeting) so he had had to come up with some questions that he felt were representative of the thoughts of the fanbase generally and NUFC Fans United in particular. Below are the questions he submitted via Lee Ryder at The Chronicle:
1. Since the disollution of the supporters panel there has been no vehicle to canvas supporters opinion and give the board direct access to the fans. What steps, if any, are being taken to rectify this, what format would any replacement take and how would members be selected?
2. Is the stadium rebranding of "Sportsdirect.com@St James's Park" still, as was originally claimed, a showcasing exercise to demonstrate the possibilities to other potential sponsors or is it now a fully fledged sponsorship arrangement? If so what actual benefit does NUFC gain from this?
3. Why, given the amount of time the club has had to identify potential striking target since receiving £35million for Andy Carroll, is the club hiding behind a statement citing there would be no knee jerk reactions"? Surely over 200 days was more than enough time to recruit an essential addition to the team that everyone from the manager down over has asked for yet it seems has been failed to deliver.
4. Given that players have been criticised by the club for their actions in both how they act and behave socially and in their use of social networking, how does the board of NUFC respond to pictures released at the weekend of the owner undressing in public and how will the club be able to explain their moralistic stance towards a number of issues that inevitably arise with players and their social lives in the light of this?
It was agreed that Neil’s questions were very good and it is hoped that the Club answers the questions fully and openly.
6. Do we need a cohesive response to Mike Ashley’s latest embarrassment at the weekend?
Most present agreed that what Mr Ashley does in his spare time is entirely up to him, but that as he is the defacto figurehead of a publicly facing organisation like NUFC that he should perhaps act in a manner more befitting his position.
Also in light of the very public dressing down of 3 players who were photographed flashing their abs in a Newcastle nightclub, 48 hours before a match in which none of them was fit to play, his Full Monty behaviour is at best hypocritical and at worst has the potential to undermine the discipline Mr Pardew is attempting to instill in the squad.
7. The club needs a Fans Liaison Officer in place by 2013. What would the group want from that individual and how could we put suggestions to the club on how that individual acts and relays between board/club/supporter/ level.
In the months before relegation, Steve Hastie, Neil Mitchell and others attended a number of “supporters’ panel” meetings with the Club, including at least one attended by Derek Llambias. Both admitted that they had been impressed by Mr Llambias’ willingness to talk openly and at length about various matters. At other times however the meetings were used to gauge opinions on subjects like “are the chips hot enough?” - it was felt that on the occasions when the club asked the “right” questions, that it was a most useful exercise for both parties. This iniative stopped after the Club was relegated.
Under the previous ownership, Steve Wraith had been the Fans’ Liaison Officer, however he felt that it was a position that was merely paid lip service and that it wasn’t every properly utilised by the Club.
Everyone at the meeting on September 5th 2011 agreed (even the most ardent Anti-Ashley quarter) that the first step to improving relations between the Fans and the Club would be improved communication from the SJP hierarchy. The lack of communication and the perceived “strange” decisions by the Club (without explanation) are what cause the feelings of discontent and disenfranchisement of fans which subsequently causes unrest, talk of protest and boycott and also the 10,000 empty seats at Fulham.
It was therefore agreed, once again, that the primary focus of NUFC Fans United should be to foster lines of communication with the Club.
There was much discussion about boycotts, full NUFC boycotts, concessions boycotts and Sports Direct boycotts. Opinions on this are varied and wide with no clear consensus at this point. However it was agreed that as we are an open group whose aim is to unite the fanbase then these options should be discussed freely at our meetings and if consensus across the fanbase is reached then we will act in accordance with that consensus.
Consensus was a theme that was discussed throughout the meeting and it was agreed that as an organisation we need to grow our numbers significantly. This will give us credibility from both the fans and the Club, this credibility is necessary if we wish to be a truly representative force in any future conversations with the club. It will only be by uniting the fanbase that we will make any progress in this regard. For these reasons it was proposed that we ramp up promotion of the group and that we continue to try and engage the other fanzines, websites, groups and NUST. Leaflets were suggested and will be designed and distributed to supporters ASAP.
Another situation that needs resolving is a MISSION STATEMENT for NUFC Fans United, this will enable us to promote the organisation more effectively and will hopefully answer any questions people will have about the nature (and intentions of NUFCFansUtd). A mission statement will be drafted immediately and circulated to the group for approval.
It was also agreed that the club and The Chronicle (plus other journalists) be added to the distribution list for minutes and that the Club (ie Wendy Taylor and Simon Esland) are invited to these meetings in future.
9. Date of next meeting
The next meeting will be held on Monday, October 3 2011; and every First Monday thereafter. Agenda, venue and time to be confirmed and circulated in due course.
email: NUFCFansUtd@gmail.com or email@example.com