It has been revealed on Friday morning that developers working for Mike Ashley, are pressing ahead with plans that will prevent any possible future increase in the capacity of St James Park.
The development is proposed on land opposite the Gallowgate End, the lease on it being bought when John Hall and Freddy Shepherd ran the club.
The capacity of St James Park could be increased to around the 60,000 mark if the Gallowgate was taken up to the level of the Milburn and Leazes stands.
The Newcastle United Supporters Trust (NUST) met with original developers Tolent some time ago and they detailed plans for developing land that WOULD still allow for expansion of St James Park.
However, Tolent were later dropped as developers, with claims that Mike Ashley was going to employ his own people develop the land himself, rather than selling the lease to others.
NUST have now revealed that they were invited to meet with representatives of the new developers, who would ‘explain the latest proposals’.
At this latest meeting, the new people were reluctant to admit who they were working for but eventually admitted that it was Mike Ashley.
The NUST representatives then discovered that the new Mike Ashley development allowed for no possible future development of St James Park, with that possibility not even having formed part of any discussions between Ashley and his developers.
For those who wonder what is the problem as Newcastle aren’t even selling out the current capacity this season, if this development of offices, student accommodation, retail, hotels, whatever, goes ahead – it will mean there will NEVER be the chance to increase St James Park, even if good times return.
The fact is, over fifty thousand were there against Leicester to watch a relegation ‘battling’ team playing poor football, so just how many would want to watch decent football with a positive ambitious management in place?
Manchester City’s capacity has now exceeded Newcastle United’s. with Liverpool, West Ham and Spurs to shortly follow. Elsewhere, other clubs such as Everton are also looking at the potential of a much bigger stadium, whilst even the likes of Swansea are looking at ways to increase their grounds.
To be able to compete in years to come, Newcastle United need every advantage in their favour, yet this own goal backs up the idea that Mike Ashley is looking to make as much short-term cash as possible before washing his hands of the club.
The NUST public statement:
‘NUST reported earlier this year that a number of Trust Board members had been invited to meet Tyneside based developers Tolent regarding their plans to develop land behind the Gallowgate End adjacent to the Metro Station.
NUST explained our concerns regarding how any development would limit any future ground extension. To be fair to Tolent they were well prepared for the meeting and outlined how the ground could still be extended notwithstanding their own development.
NUST later learnt that Tolent were no longer proceeding with the development, their MD confirming via the media that Mike Ashley was proposing to proceed with the development himself.
After a period of quiet, NUST were recently requested to attend a meeting with “developer representatives” to explain the latest proposals.
At the meeting it became clear that the representatives were reluctant to disclose who they were acting on behalf of – but when pushed accepted it was on behalf of a Mike Ashley controlled company – and furthermore it was clear that any development excluded any possible extension to the Gallowgate.
Indeed the representatives seemed oblivious to the fact that any possible extension had even been subject to any previous discussion.
NUST representatives at the meeting concluded that on the information available the development of the land will be of no financial benefit to NUFC and in addition it confirms that the Club has no intention of exploring opportunities to extend the Gallowgate End.
This is disappointing given the lease over the land was originally intended to benefit the club and a number of Premier League clubs are currently extending their grounds beyond the capacity of St. James’ Park.’