The edited ‘highlights’ from the latest NUFC Fans Forum are below – the club managing not to include any reference to the subject everybody is talking about.
Yes, everybody expected the minutes from the latest meeting of fans and club officials to be used to put last season’s finances out in the best possible PR light…only for amazingly, not a single mention of the expected £50m or so profits from last season.
The 2013/14 accounts have to be published by the end of this month according to reports, so we won’t need to wait too long to see what audacious spin Mike Ashley’s people put on the figures. A massive profit due to tens of millions of extra TV cash, selling our best player (Cabaye) and not buying a single player last season.
So what did the fans talk about when they met Lee Charnley and others last Monday?
Well we have picked out the ‘highlights’ such as they were, but these were easily the blandest set of NUFC Fans Forum minutes released so far.
Reading comments elsewhere from some of the fans forum members, they don’t claim that anything included wasn’t said, but they feel a lot has been left out – especially the arguments back and forward and the unhappiness on certain issues from the majority of forum members, the minutes painting a picture that airbrushes out much of the disagreement.
One big change is that nothing is attributed to individual board members Lee Charnley or John Irving, so we get no idea of what they actually contributed. Almost all answers are just simply attributed to ‘The Board’. An obvious step to try and avoid the likes of Lee Charnley being ridiculed again due to what he said, though the subjects/answers are so sanitised there is little to get your teeth into this time.
It is ludicrous really that the minutes don’t make any reference to last season’s financial figures, even a mention that they were discussed but they are going to be released separately.
By ignoring last season’s finances and the countless questions that flow from them, Ashley and his minions totally undermine the supporters who they have selected to be on the Fans Forum and who have accepted this poisoned chalice.
Questions/subjects in bold, followed by the club response in the minutes.
Why was Santon loaned out and Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa sold in January but nobody brought in?
The board explained that January is a very challenging market for clubs. The overall aim is to improve the squad and the club will only move for a player if it is felt they can help to achieve that on a longer-term basis. The club continues to assess its squad with a view to the summer transfer window.
We know that Sports Direct do not pay for static advertising. Do they pay for pitch side advertising?
Sports Direct receives no more space on the LED perimeter boards than other club partners, with the relationship unchanged since previous discussions about the company.
Does Newcastle United pay all its employees at least the Living Wage?
The board said that it does not pay the living wage but it does abide by employment law as per legislation set by the government and pay the minimum wage.
Not trying in Cups?
The board contested the idea that the club goes out to lose any match. It was suggested that Newcastle United’s openness in relation to the Premier League being its priority was unlike other Premier League clubs, who operate in much the same way without communicating that view to supporters.
Happy just to survive in the Premier League?
The board stated there is a misconception that the board wants the team to finish tenth. The board’s aim is for the club to finish as high up the table as it possibly can, with tenth a minimum position for this season.
FA Cup team selection at Leicester?
The board assured Forum members that John Carver played his best possible team in the Leicester cup game and the board did not influence his team selection in any way.
Lowering the wage bill?
The board has not discussed reducing the wage bill and conversely it continually assesses its transfer spend and wage bill in order to set it at an appropriate level to ensure the club meets one of its strategic aims of improving the quality of its squad.
Can the club give an indication of the proceeds from home strips over a season compared to previous years (i.e. adidas kits)?
The club stated that domestic shirt sales generally across most Premier League clubs are lower compared to what they have been historically.
Has the ban on NCJ Media been lifted and are they now allowed free speech without the ban being re-imposed?
The board confirmed the ban has been lifted and that it is rebuilding its relationship with NCJ Media. The board stated the media group has absolute editorial control and that the club simply asks for balance in its coverage.
The club noted that a vocal minority of supporters on social media heavily criticise NCJ Media and its journalists when articles are positive about the club, which in the board’s view puts pressure on them to write critical pieces to compensate.
Trialled the reintroduction of a singing section area for an European game, however a number of individuals within that area breached certain ground regulations, including the use of smoke canisters, a high level of drunkenness and significant levels of foul and abusive language, so the club did not progress this further.
Will the club ensure the transfer activity it does in the summer ensures we have a squad that’s equipped for the full season? I am also concerned that the club seems to be prepared to let players go in January, but not prepared to replace them in that window.
The board’s aim is to complete its recruitment for the season ahead each summer on the basis it will likely do little or no business in the January window.
Beyond wages and Premier League football, what attraction is there for young players intending to win things to join the club? Do we sell ourselves as a stepping stone?
The board stated the club is sold as one that wants to compete as high in the Premier League as possible. The reality is that because of the age profile and ambition of the players the club will target, it is not unreasonable to think that Newcastle United may not be the last club they will play for.
The board stated there is absolutely no appetite just to exist as a Premier League club and reiterated it wanted to finish as high as it possibly can in every season, but that it had to be realistic and not over-promise and under-deliver.
Is there a reason why Fabricio Coloccini doesn’t play in FA Cup matches?
The board stated it may have been due to injuries and, in the past, a manager’s decision to rest him. This season, Fabricio Coloccini played in all of the club’s midweek Capital One Cup games.
Why did Fabricio Coloccini not attend warm weather training in Dubai?
The board stated that the player had been given permission to remain in Newcastle.
How does the club see the issues surrounding Rangers?
The board stated it is aware of the UEFA regulations regarding the situation. The club and its owner would not put Newcastle United in a position where it would lose a European place because of Rangers.
Any addition to a previous statement that Mike Ashley will not sell in Newcastle United until “the end of next season.”
The board stated that the date was specified in order to dismiss incorrect stories in the media and that Mike Ashley remains committed to Newcastle United.
The board stated that it is exploring the possibility of strategic partnerships with a number of clubs. A number of Premier League clubs already have this type of arrangement/relationship. The purpose of this would be to send players to these clubs to aid their development with the ultimate beneficiary being Newcastle United.
Sale of land behind Gallowgate End that is essential for any future expansion of St. James’ Park?
The board explained that the land has not been owned by the club or appeared in its accounts since before Mike Ashley’s time at the club. It is under the umbrella of Mike Ashley’s ownership, separate to the club. A public consultation has been called for 12th March, which is to assess the potential development of the site.
Decision on permanent head coach?
The board stated that it will not consider the matter again until the end of the season.
The board went through a lengthy process in terms of speaking to a number of people about coming to the club as a potential head coach. The outcome of that process was that the board felt the best option was for John Carver to be appointed to the position until the end of the season, at which point it will be reviewed.
In the event the board should need to look for an external candidate in the summer for the position of Head Coach, the board would not have to start the process all over again due to the level of detail and work which went into the initial search.
The criteria of a potential new head coach?
The board would look for an individual who would fit into the club’s structure, someone who is tactically astute, and who has a track record of developing young players and the ability to improve players. The club has no concerns over whether a potential new head coach is British or from overseas and deems other criteria far more important.
Would the club revisit the Director of Football role? (Suggesting that the chief scout, Graham Carr, was assuming the role.)
The board stated it is not planning to reintroduce the role. The responsibilities associated with that role are shared between several parties within the club and the club feels its track record in recruiting players is generally strong.