If/when Newcastle return to the Premier League next August, they will be forced to move the away fans.
Currently all the away fans inside St James Park are located in the top level of the Leazes End but being back in the top tier would mean a change of location.
Recent times have seen the Premier League eventually realise that much of the attraction of English football is the atmosphere created inside the stadiums.
With such a high proportion of Premier League clubs’ income coming from overseas TV money, there is now an acceptance that much of that is generated because football fans in other countries see that English football has something which is unique, thanks to the away fans.
No other country has so many football fans travelling to away matches week in week out, obviously the geography of the country helping as compared to the distances between many clubs in countries such as Germany, France, Italy and Spain. The friction/’banter’ between two sets of fans essential to drive the atmosphere if the overseas TV money is to be protected longer term.
The Premier League reacted to falling numbers of away fans by first establishing the ‘away fans fund’, with Premier League clubs given £200,000 per year from central funds to pay for initiatives to encourage more away fans to travel. Clubs used this money at their own discretion in various ways – discounting ticket prices when their own fans travelled, paying for free coach travel, and even using it to improve facilities in the away section at their own stadium.
This initiative has now moved on and from this season until at least 2019, all away tickets for away fans at Premier League stadiums will cost no more than £30.
Ironically, Newcastle United’s fall into the Championship means their regular away fans are very likely to end up paying MORE for tickets, with this past weekend seeing Sheffield Wednesday charge Villa fans £42 for Championship football.
Back to the top tier and the 20 Premier league clubs have now agreed yet another move to help generate better atmospheres at matches and encourage more away fans to travel.
From next (2017/18) season, every Premier League club will be required to have a pitch-side away section, so that visiting fans are guaranteed to be as close as possible to the action and boost the atmosphere generated during games.
It remains to be seen exactly how this would work in practice and exactly how many of those away fans would need to be ‘pitch-side’ – but clearly, if Newcastle return to the Premier League then it would mean a major change inside St James Park and at least some season ticket holders forced to move.