In August 2013, the Premier League Chief Executive, Richard Scudamore, announced that via the Premier League Away Fans Fund a total of £12m would be given to clubs over the next 3 seasons (£600,000 – 3 x £200,000 a season).
This was an initiative in response to a 10% decline in away support across the Premier League, over the previous five seasons, an attempt to increase the number of fans going to away matches.
Earlier this season, the club said that some of this season’s £200,000 would be used to fund away trips for the Newcastle United Disabled Supporters Association (NUDSA), with details of how the rest of the money would be allocated to help NUFC’s away following, to be confirmed at a later date.
At Monday night’s Fans Forum the question was asked by Forum member Thomas Concannon;
‘What is the Away Fans Fund being spent on?’
Part of the reply in the official club minutes was;
‘The club is funding away travel for the Newcastle United Disabled Supporters Association (NUDSA) to Hull City next weekend, with tickets, travel, food and stewarding all provided.’
However it then added; ‘Gareth Beard (NUDSA representative on the Fans Forum) explained that NUDSA was unable to travel in large numbers to other PL away fixtures due to the lack of available space for disabled supporters.’
So it appears that there has been minimal money spent on our disabled fans out of the £200k due to the difficulties of lack of space for away disabled fans, so what has the rest of the money been used for?
The club further stated in the Forum minutes;
‘The club disclosed that a significant amount had already been spent on the visitors section at St.James’ Park this season.’
A ‘significant amount’ of how much and on what?
So what about our rank and file away fans – other clubs have been laying on free coaches (Villa had 10 of them on Sunday) and/or knocking money (£3 or £4) off all their fans’ away tickets for every away match etc.
The club’s answer;
‘The board stated that it does not agree with the concept of subsidising away match tickets as this simply means it has to hand money over to the home club, which doesn’t discourage it from setting fair prices.
Instead, the club has pursued reciprocal pricing deals with other clubs but that this still represents a loss of revenue for those participating, which is offset against the Away Fans Fund’
So cast your mind back to when this reciprocal pricing initiative was announced by Newcastle United.
If you recall Newcastle United got loads of great press, along the lines of doing something for their fans at last. Agreements reached with both West Brom and Swansea that both their fans and those from Newcastle would only pay £20 when visiting the other clubs.
I was very pleasantly surprised, the club taking a hit on the tickets sold to Swansea and West Brom fans, simply to enable our fans to have cheaper tickets on their travels.
Never once did I hear anything about Newcastle United taking the money out of the £200,000 Premier League Away Fans Fund to pay them back for what they were deeming lost revenue.
So in actual fact this wasn’t a great generous gesture by Newcastle United, instead simply funnelling the £200,000 from the Premier League pot into that scheme.
So while other clubs are laying on free buses and cutting prices of away tickets for their own fans across the board, it appears that Newcastle dreamt up this scheme simply to try and encourage as many away fans as possible to travel to St.James’ Park (for less attractive fixtures) and then recoup the difference in the ticket prices from the £200k.
To put it simply, Newcastle United/Mike Ashley wouldn’t have benefited from this £200k scheme if they’d simply knocked the money off ticket prices Newcastle fans were paying to visit other clubs, or if the club had put on free buses to get them there.
I wish they put as much thought and effort into trying to win a trophy!