This morning we carried a piece from Newcastle fan Steve Jackson, who was challenging the Chronicle top brass to support the Spurs boycott,
Steve pointed out that in the past the Chronicle have been a key driver in helping change to happen, with the John Hall/Magpie Group takeover the prime example.
The United supporter also pointed out that journalists working for the nationals, such as George Caulkin of The Times, were taking a lead in backing the protests, so surely it was the Chronicle’s duty to take a similar stance and stand with the fans.
Darren Thwaites, Editor In Chief at the Chronicle has taken up the challenge and published the following on the Chronicle website:
Passions are running high. They always do in our city where football is concerned.
Mike Ashley and Lee Charnley should be grateful for that. The United hierarchy will face a much bigger problem if fans ever lose their passion.
And it would be easy for any fan to do that right now.
They see a club with limited ambition to win trophies. They have an owner who never explains anything to them and appears to not care all that much what they think.
They’ve just lost five derbies and five Premier League games in a row. They have a team miles away from the standards expected in a black and white shirt.
But the passion remains, now matched by rising frustration – and it’s a heady mix that’s fuelling a powerful movement for change.
Supporters are being asked to boycott the game against Spurs, the ultimate act of protest for any loyal fan.
And we at The Chronicle – so central to all things United – are rightly being challenged to give our official backing.
So what’s our position?
Well it’s quite simple, really. We support the right of fans to stage a peaceful boycott. We understand those who feel the only way to make their feelings known is to stay away.
Sometimes when you feel you have no voice, you have to scream. Ashley probably won’t listen. But as a famous Frenchman – not in the United squad – once said: “Not being heard is no reason for silence.”
However, we also support the fans who believe their role is to support the team on the field, especially with the spectre of relegation not entirely banished.
Those who stay loyal are not doing so to endorse the Ashley regime. Most will equally desire change, although many will question what form that might take. There’s no doubt a weakness of the boycott plan is that no-one has really been able to articulate what change looks like and how it can be made to happen.
Our position is that every fan has to decide for themselves – and their decision should be respected. Our role is to present all sides, allow all opinions and explore all alternatives.
And let’s make one thing very clear. We’ve taken our approach because we believe it’s the right thing to do, not because the club has told us to.
We were banned for more than a year by United because we defended our right to an independent voice.
We held the club to account with some of the most powerful sports journalism ever published in the mainstream press. It was The Chronicle that loudly fought to retain the St James’ Park name as other media caved in to the pressure of Sports Direct Arena.
When the ban came – following our coverage of the last significant anti-Ashley protest – we continued to do our job. Despite our banishment, we followed the club to the other side of the world on their pre-season tour to New Zealand.
And when the club eventually allowed us back in, no deals were done, no agreements signed. We made it clear, face-to-face, that we’d remain free to criticise without fear or favour – and the club accepted that.
At the same time, we want the club to be successful. We take no pleasure in conflict. At heart, our institution and most of the people who work within it, are passionate Newcastle United fans. We crave success and we’d love to be reporting it.
We share fans’ concerns and we’ve voiced them louder than anyone on many occasions. We fundamentally disagree with the club’s lack of ambition in cup competitions and Ashley’s apparent refusal to communicate with fans.
But we’ll always give the club a platform to address issues, whether we agree with the answers or not. That balance was denied the club during the ban because they refused to talk to us.
The fact the ban is over and dialogue has re-opened doesn’t mean we’re now the club’s apologists. It’s just responsible journalism to present all viewpoints and then allow fans and readers to draw their own conclusions.
And that’s exactly what we’re doing here.
We’ll be criticised by some for not giving unequivocal backing to the boycott.
But that’s fine. That’s healthy. We won’t shy away from the debate and we’ll cover every aspect of the proposed boycott without fear or favour.
In response, Steve Jackson has replied with the following, an understanding up to a point of the Chronicle’s position but speaking for many supporters in his belief that NCJ/Chronicle are making a very bad choice:
I think it would have been an extremely brave thing to do to back the boycott. In this instance you have chosen not to be brave. But I think this is your window. If the situation worsens it would be very hard to suddenly decide to be part of a movement at a later date.
I’m old enough to remember the legendary Evening Chronicle Editor Graeme Stanton backing regime change in years gone by. Back then it wouldn’t have happened without the Chronicle. Now, if social media empower fans enough, they may wonder why they need the Chronicle at all.
I don’t think you’ve chosen not to back fans, specifically because of fears of Ashley reprisals. I think you don’t want to risk backing a long shot. However, with the situation that local media finds itself in – I’d have thought you’d welcome the chance to demonstrate your ongoing worth to the city.
An opportunity missed I think. Whether the campaign succeeds or fails – you inactivity is unlikely to be forgotten by many.
Thanks again for your reply