The latest NUFC Fans Forum minutes have surely seen the last nail knocked into that particular coffin.
For anything like this to work, a coming together of club and well meaning fans, there has to be respect on both sides.
What has happened over the last eighteen months of the NUFC Fans Forum is no surprise to any rational person, Mike Ashley is only interested in things that he can control and which allow his PR people under the guidance of Keith Bishop to manipulate.
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The Chronicle were banned for daring to report on protests against Mike Ashley, with the Daily Record getting the same treatment as the Newcastle owner exerted his influence north of the border.
Numerous other journalists and newspapers have received bans via Ashley’s minions at St. James’ Park, from temporary suspensions of a week or two right up to permanent as in the case of the Telegraph.
It is a UEFA requirement that clubs are seen to interact with the fans, treating them as essential partners in the operation of football clubs.
Newcastle United set up the NUFC Fans Forum to tick this box and made a big deal out of the fact that they had worked with the FSF (Football Supporters Federation) in how the forum should be set up and how it would operate.
Most supporters were unsurprisingly sceptical and waited with interest to see what would happen if this really was an outbreak of Glasnost from the Ashley regime.
If supporters wanted to be part of the NUFC Fans Forum then they had to apply to the club, who then chose who they wanted from those that applied. No voting by supporters, the club appoint them. Already you could see a major flaw, Newcastle United having the power to pick and choose who they want…
Only three places on the Forum were permanent ones with the club not choosing who attended.
The Newcastle United Disabled Supporters Association (NUDSA), a democratically organised body, quite rightly had one of those places.
A group of supporters who regularly meet under the title ‘NUFC Fans United’ were allowed to put somebody forward, though it wasn’t clear how that person was chosen as they don’t appear to have any membership or democratic process.
The third permanent place given to NUST (Newcastle United Supporters Trust), a properly constituted organisation with mass membership and elected board members.
At that very first meeting back in 2013 of the NUFC Fans Forum we were given a great insight into what had happened blow by blow at the first meeting of fans and club officials. The NUST representative, Peter Fanning, who attended as the Trust’s appointed person, gave his own report on how the meeting had gone.
This report ended up appearing before Newcastle United published the official minutes, due to the club putting them up later than they’d originally stated on the official club website. The official minutes didn’t contradict anything major that appeared in the NUST report on proceedings.
Despite this, some weeks later, coincidentally immediately after NUST published a message of support for the banned Evening Chronicle, Mike Ashley ordered NUST to be kicked off the NUFC Fans Forum.
The excuse used was that NUST had published their report before the official minutes, which they claimed broke an agreement for the minutes to appear first, ignoring the fact that if the official minutes had been published on time then this wouldn’t have happened.
The general feeling was that this was simply an excuse to get rid of the Trust and to punish them for backing the banned Chronicle and to prevent anybody else in the future putting out a credible version of what happened at future NUFC Fans Forum meeting, which could inform the fanbase, rather than simply the sanitised club account.
The FSF (Football Supporters Federation) said the club’s move to ban NUST was unfounded and way over the top and they should be reinstated. A number of the individuals on the Fans Forum said the same thing and that it made a mockery of the forum before it had even got going properly.
The club ignored the lot of them and simply said that NUST were banned and it was their decision…a funny kind of a partnership when one side dictates what happens and the other side is powerless. It has been downhill from that very first meeting, some NUFC Fans Forum members resigning in disgust at the farce it had turned out to be, whilst others remained – no doubt hoping things would improve, the same with new members who the club appointed to fill the gaps.
The club have also reduced the number of meetings from four per season to three, despite the protests of some Forum members.
So yesterday we were treated to the latest NUFC Fans Forum official minutes, the highlights of which you can read HERE.
These minutes summing up sadly just what a waste of time the NUFC Fans Forum has been from day one, supporters used as stooges yet again by the club.
Before being kicked off the Rangers Board himself, Derek Llambias disbanded the official Rangers Fans Board because they also had dared to tell fans what had really gone on at the meetings, embarrassing Ashley’s men Barry Leach and Llambias because fans learnt how they’d acted and what they’d said.
It is clear at Newcastle United that there is no intention of the club showing any respect whatsoever to the supporters who are giving up their time and effort for no doubt the best of reasons, the club don’t see them as equal partners, simply as more mugs who can be used by the Mike Ashley empire.
Our club is a laughing stock under Mike Ashley and with predicted profits expected to be posted of around £50m or more for the 2013/14 season in the coming days, surely supporters remaining on this valueless platform is no longer an option.
I would urge the current members of the NUFC Fans Forum to resign en masse and leave with some dignity intact, simply sitting there and continuing to prop up Ashley’s rotten regime at St. James’ Park must surely be seen as something they can no longer tolerate.