Open letters are, as anyone knows, an opportunity for the author to demonstrate just how self-important the author considers him/herself to be and this is no different.

Here is my private gripe masquerading as a proactive public announcement which will be rightfully ignored by just about everyone, except you dear reader, and for which I insincerely apologise for wasting the 45 seconds of your life spent reading this.

Back in 1988, fanzines became all the rage and Newcastle United fans had one of the more professional efforts in ‘The Mag’.

Fanzines gave fans a voice but The Mag was a little different, it had a purpose as well. The Mag supported the Magpie group’s plan to take over the club from Gordon McKeag.

The first issue came out for the start of the 1988/89 season with Gazza on the front page having completed his move to Spurs and then the second edition included an interview with Malcolm Dix of the Magpie group, outlining the group’s plans and vision.

The Magpie group, headed by John Hall, was going to run NUFC like a business, treat its customers respectfully and we were going to see something new on the Gallowgate end, a roof!!! By the 3rd or 4th issue, the Mag had interviewed John Hall himself, Hall was very clear, he didn’t want to own a football club, the group would obtain the shares to control the club and then sell a good chunk of the shares to the supporters in a share issue.

The fans lapped all this up, “sack the board” was the call from the Gallowgate and if all went to plan, we could call for that as shareholders of the club and have a real say in things.

By 1990/91 Hall et al had wrestled control of the shares and therefore the club, it was now the fans turn to put their hands in their pockets to take a cut of the club. The share issue was well publicised, the Ronnie had updates on how to apply for shares and deadline dates, but not enough Newcastle fans were prepared cough up and put some money in. Those of us who sent in our cheques had them returned. Here was a real chance of true fan ownership but too many fans had let the club down.

newcastle united fans

“Sack the board” seemed a little hollow when fans weren’t prepared to do their bit. The problem is that football fans are like socialists, they want lots of spending but they want it done with other people’s money. Hall and his team were left carrying all the financial burden and to their credit, pressed on in rejuvenating the club and stadium, moreover, we got a team led by Kevin Keegan that entertained wherever it went.

As we know by now, the highs were followed by lows and fast forward a few years the club is now owned by Mike Ashley. Ten years of ownership, fans have fallen back into abusing the owners of the club and whilst sack the board is a little dated, the nicer calls are for Mike Ashley to get out of the club – but what are the fans doing to get this man out of the club? Chanting obscenities, painting bedspreads and marching through the town does achieve absolutely nothing.

For Mike Ashley to leave NUFC, someone has to buy him out. It’s not unreasonable or greedy for him to expect recompense for relinquishing assets and I’d not expect him to sell up without getting the market rate.

newcastle united fans

It’s all very well relying on rumoured takeovers or getting excited about Amanda Staveley. People get involved in football clubs for a number of reasons, most hope to make a few quid and once you start relying on people who don’t necessarily care about the club, the likelihood is that the club will go the wrong way. For all the Oil rich nations or Russian oil barons who want to plough money into football as a plaything, statistics say it’s more likely that the owners will lose interest quickly and leave the club in a bit of a state.

How do we guarantee the club is run ‘our’ way? The answer is to risk a few quid ourselves as fans. That way, when we’re moaning that the club needs funds in a transfer window, we need to look to ourselves to provide the funds.

How can it be done? Well, if United played an FA Cup final in May, A rough guess is that the club could sell the place 4- 5 x over. There must around half a million United fans out there, at least 250,000 would consider themselves passionate. £2,000 each would raise £500m, that would buy out Mike Ashley for £400m and leave £100m for the pot to make a difference.

To get backing from ordinary fans, it has to be a potentially profitable proposal. We will not raise enough money on the idea that the club will be successful, people will just freeload and leave it to others.

Initially, there does not even need to be a full buyout but a minimum 50% of the club would need to be achieved, anything less would be railroaded by Mike Ashley. If the club is worth £400m as a stable Premier league club (probably about right) then £239m is the minimum needed which would be made up as £128m for shares and £111m loan, £33m pays off St James holdings loan so new money in club is £78m & parity with Mike Ashley.

Realistically, I don’t think 250,000 people will cough up the money. Some fans are richer than others and we will need bigger players on board than folks with a bit of spare savings, but if we can get the intent out there and the ball rolling, we can attract the bigger players.

This does not have to be a proposal out of philanthropy or altruism. It can be a serious investment. With the current TV deal and the cost base at NUFC, the profits should be around the £30m a year mark and that alone makes the club pretty reasonable at £400m, where else can you earn interest at 7.5% a year?

The income could be higher (although personally I think unlikely) some commentators suggest: We lose £20m a year in lost advertising because of the Sports Direct advertising, We miss out on  £20m in commercial income a year, £20m in merchandise profit as we use Sports Direct for fulfilment, if these figures are right (I think they are fanciful), that makes the football club very cheap at £400m.

So, come on Newcastle United fans, don’t leave it to others, grab a slice of the action, take responsibility and invest in the club.

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  • Dutch

    What a ridiculous article. Utter Sunday Rubbish.

    • Steve Smith

      Why is it ridiculous? You have to love the internet where anyone can just spout a viewpoint with no substantiation.

      • Guest 2

        Fleckman commented a while back that by using a certain accounting ‘formula’ NUFC could be valued at 20 Billion. Anyone holding such a viewpoint clearly is ridiculous – never mind the fact that he believes Ashley has done great things for the club and argued that on here for a long time..

        • Oooh bobbi fleckman

          I valued the club at different ends of the spectrum. An argument can be made to say it’s worth £20bn and also to say it’s worth just the balance sheet value.

          Valuation models are varied, some are simple, some are complex but the bottom line is the figure that trigger a sale. £400m will, £380m probably, £350m could, £260m will not.

  • Steve Smith

    An alternative being fans finding 51% of those figures and looking for private investment for the minority share.

  • Anthony Haynes

    I suspect not enough people have the money to put in or would be willing to. That said, unless there’s a site set up to allow people to register interest we’ll never know. It’s certainly not a ridiculous idea…

  • Kuko

    I like the idea of fan ownership a lot and I support it in general, but 2,000 pounds is too much for many fans.

    A cheaper way to buy a share would definitely be necessary. Not sure how that would work though– 100 pounds for a single share, including a ticket to a game or something?

    A lot of people poo-poo the idea, but fan ownership could be done with a long term plan.

    • Oooh bobbi fleckman

      The trust would own the shares in the club, the fans would buy shares in the club. £2,000 is a lot for some, it’s not a lot for others, some will own a lot of shares, some will own a small number.

  • Guest 2

    Fleckmans dodgy accounting – no wonder he has supported Ashley for so long. If 33 million is repaid to St James’ Holdings – the Club still ‘owes’ Ashley 111 million for his original ‘loan’.

    AND – even under this scenario – any profits made you seem to think Ashley wouldn’t want any. So, make 30 million a season as you suggest, minus fattys profit grab of 49% (14.7 mil) and we have enough for the same type of spend as this Summer!

    Lets not forget Fleckman has been lauding Ashley’s ‘financial stewardship’ for years – yet he remains utterly silent on what damage the club could be facing due to the HMRC case as a result of fatty’s greedy and conniving business dealings..

    • Oooh bobbi fleckman

      Read it again, the new ‘nufc investment trust’ would also match the loan.

    • Leazes Ender

      and silent on what damage Ashley has inflicted on the club.

  • Leazes Ender

    I was one of those who did sign up for the shares but in 1991 we had unemployment levels on Tyneside at about 15% and tailing off toward 10% by 1995, it was the wrong time go for a sale by Hall and probably vastly overestimated the ability and desire by United fans to comply with his desire for a quick buck,

    We are sort of the British Catalans (Geordie Nation) but without the ambition or the money to go for it, but we have far more foodbanks. This is a low wage area and if families had spare cash it would be for a holiday, or towards a new car.

    Coalmining and Shipbuilding only made a few people rich, even Land ownership here is in the same hands as the feudal Baron families of the middle ages, if you live on Tyneside and buy your leasehold the money will probably go to via collectors to the Smithson family (‘Percy’ the Northumberland Estates) This isn’t a society built on equality, and the law only respects ownership, and is fought over in Parliament in order to keep those whose names are in Burke’s Peerage as wealthy as their ancestors. This is a poor region, owned by others interests.

    The club has been taken away from the fans, and Ashley liked to demonstrate he was the owner in no uncertain way…. deliberate downsizing coupled with as many spiteful acts against his own club, almost orchestrating the desire for a buyout.

    You would have to force these fans to buy, only if it was intangible and didn’t hurt….. attach a long term buyout only amongst ‘Members and Season Ticket holders’ with a fee attached to the season ticket as guarantee against a loan for the buyout, that is the only way to democratise the club. Ashley has more movable cash than the whole of Tyneside put together and I fear football has gone away and is never coming home.

    • Haitchdee

      Very well put Leazes Fan ownership is a great ideal. Also a bit of a pipe dream it would take a year to get agreement on anything.

      • Oooh bobbi fleckman

        No, the shareholders appoint the board. The newcastle united investment trust will prepare a strategic plan in order to gt investment.

    • Oooh bobbi fleckman

      It depends what you consider your priorities are, I’ve never wanted a new car but I’ve tried to put money into my football club. I’ve had two days away this year but I’d put money into my football club.

      We aren’t coalminers anymore, the skills and money-earning capability of the North East are no different to London, all you need is a computer network and a brain. We also live in an area where the average wage buys a nice house along with more spare money than the south east.

      It’s daft to suggest Ashley has more money than the whole of Tyneside, utterly stupid to be honest.

      Football can come home if you try and put a bit of effort in yourself, not just moan on the sidelines.

  • Leicester Mag

    Seldom if ever agreed with your views but agree a trick was missed in the 90s when Sir John tried to float the club. Many top clubs outside the U.K. are fan owned, why not here? Feeling is it’s too late, that said were this set up professionally I’d be interested.

    • HarryHype59

      Me too!

  • mactoon

    you want me to invest money in a club that is being investigated by HMRC in what the Mirror is reporting as scrutiny of a possible tax fraud probe of £500 million worth of transfer deals? I’m out!

    • Geordie-7676

      £500 million is the total, spread across multiple clubs….NUFC’s part is worth around £1.9 Million! Bigger fish out there than us mate, trust me!

      • Guest 2

        Hate to pop your bubble but reporting suggests “AROUND half a billion pounds worth of Newcastle United transfer deals face forensic scrutiny from a major tax fraud probe.”

        • Geordie-7676

          Mate, the club has spent £576 million in transfers since 1992…..so unless pretty much every single transfer Newcastle have made in 23 years are being investigated, it isn’t my bubble thats going to burst!

          5 transfers are under scrutiny, and with those transfers, it is ONLY the payments made to agents in question….if you had paid any attention at all you would know that this whole thing is focused around work around of tax and NIC on single sum payments….basically sign on fees!

          It’s not transfers that are up for debate or under any scrutiny at all!

          • Oooh bobbi fleckman

            Exactly, nobody seems to read the case.

          • Geordie-7676

            I read the entire court transcript on Thursday from this week’s hearing.

            The fact that people are still spinning these stories about half billions is just scary. Official court case transcripts are available clearly stating the facts, and yet they would rather quote the bloody mirror.

            Hilarious!

          • Oooh bobbi fleckman

            Exactly, there is a quote on the transcript that should be a wet dream for some on here but they clearly haven’t read it.

            I suspect the HMRC will settle out of court and pursue others on that basis. If Nufc win, the tax man is clucked.

          • Geordie-7676

            It will be settled out of court, and that will happen long before we know anything about it.

          • Damon Horner

            I read the other comment before yours and was going to look into the exercise! It clearly isn’t £500mil of our transfers, probably that amount overall across all clubs.

        • HarryHype59

          Has this club spent any where near half a billion pounds on players under Mike Ashley?

      • Oooh bobbi fleckman

        Exactly, the agent payments we are being accused of are commonplace. Our accusation will cost from £2m to £5m with costs. I reckon hmrc will do a deal.

    • Oooh bobbi fleckman

      sounds like an excuse to me

  • steve pearce

    Oh yes – bobbi “Moneybags” fleckman.

    Listen pal in the real world there are many people in the north east who are working and can’t even feed their kids. £2000 would ensure them some much-needed security. So get out of your rich middle class bubble and take a walk in the real world and then maybe you’ll get the message that there are more important things in life than having shares in a football club!

    • Oooh bobbi fleckman

      Look, some fans will be able to afford more, some less. Many will have many times that in spare equity in their home, some will even have many times over sitting on their drive.

      On average, £2k gets you a slice of the club.

    • HarryHype59

      Contrary to popular myth there are plenty of NUFC fans with a few bob to spare! I normally don’t agree with Bobbi but a fan buyout is great in theory.

  • Paul Patterson

    A £400m club being bought out by 50 thousand fans, what sort of figures per fan are you looking at? Can’t be arsed with the maths but it’s a lot.
    A none starter..

    • Steve Smith

      You don’t need to do the maths as the article states a very rough figure of £2,000 per fan under the assumption of 200k fans putting up enough money for the £400m buyout plus £100m additonal cash on top.

      Otherwise I would agree, very unlikely to be taken up as many don’t have a spare 2 grand – unless we start encouraging people to stick the club on their credit cards…

      • HarryHype59

        It’s a great idea except for the fact the club isn’t worth £400m.

        • Paul Patterson

          I’m estimating that that is what he will want..

          • HarryHype59

            Wanting and getting can be two different things.

        • Oooh bobbi fleckman

          Why not, the piece explains the valuation as reasonable?

          I think you suggested the club miss out onincome due to SD getting advertising, merchandise etc also you point to poor commercial income.

          • HarryHype59

            If NUFC were an established EPL side with very low chances of getting relegated, your figure may be more realistic. With relegation a real possibility this season and the resulting loss of £100m TV cash, your valuation is highly aspirational.

      • Guest 2

        Fantasy, man. Ok, play that scenario out. ‘Supporters’ raise 500 million. 100 million for transfers I presume? So what happens after that money is spent?
        Fleckman talks about 30 mil of profit as though it’s all pocket money for the shareholders. Any sane person knows that it all needs reinvesting season after season.
        Otherwise all we end up with is another Ashley model.

        • Oooh bobbi fleckman

          The £30m profit has to go back in but the value goes into the club rather than back in dividends. If the club needs more money, there will have to be a rights issue or go to the bank for a loan but that’s the reality right now. Many ‘supporters’ demand Mike Ashley throws more of his money in, if fans are the owners/part owners, then it’s down to them.

          The whole point here is taking responsibility.

  • HarryHype59

    £400m is “aspirational” figure for a club that has been relegated twice and been regular relegation fodder for he past ten years.

    • Peaky Magpie

      It’ll be worth nowt when the taxman investigating £500m of transfer dealings under Fatman’s tenure is finished.

    • Oooh bobbi fleckman

      Read the last two paragraphs.

      • HarryHype59

        The £400m valuation is based upon us not getting relegated again and losing the bumper TV money!

        The revenue streams and thus the club value, plummets outside of the EPL!

        • Oooh bobbi fleckman

          Of course, I’ve said elsewhere that the club is almost valueless outside the epl. However, it’s said on these pages that avoiding the drop is easy with the right investment, you as a shareholder will dictate investment.

          Assuming your model of adding £30m to the budget each summer, with 250,000 investors , only £120 needs to go in as a rights issue.

  • Monkseaton Magpies

    None of the fans would put any money in and it takes millions each year to run a football club. Until a big buyer comes in you should be thankful for Mike Ashley for keeping the club a float as no one else in the world is prepared to do what he does.

    • HarryHype59

      Moron!

      • Leazes Ender

        He has to be Mongo AKA Clarko AKA BigSamsB&WArmy AKA Kevin Lee….. He keeps changing name but not the pro Ashley rubbish…. his brother is fleckman AKA David Lee.

    • Guest 2

      Taxman considering 500 million of transfer activity as fraudulent under Ashley. Hahaha, yeah, he’s really done this club proud.
      Dimwit.

      • paul mclaughlan

        I think it’s more 5 million.

    • steve pearce

      Mental illness is no laughing matter and i honestly think you should seek professional help as you have serious problems…

  • Oooh bobbi fleckman

    Well done The Mag for publishing this.

    • Paul Patterson

      Why? Are you that self obsessed?

      • Oooh bobbi fleckman

        Because they haven’t always allowed views that are off piste.

        • Paul Patterson

          Or silly and not feasible…

          • Oooh bobbi fleckman

            What is silly? It’s certainly feasible.

    • Tony Mann

      What is the club worth with the current HMRC involvement ?

      • Oooh bobbi fleckman

        About £10m less than it would have been otherwise

  • X,WHY,Y MAN.

    It’s a good idea in theory but the reality is there’s more chance of getting a man on Jodie Foster !

  • Mrkgw

    Sounds to be a good idea. Whether the Mrs thinks so is another matter…..!

  • Damon Horner

    Like the idea but unless one of the investors contributes a sizable donation I can’t see it happening.

    • Oooh bobbi fleckman

      It’s not a donation, it must be a proper business proposal.

      • Damon Horner

        Pledge/contribution/investment/donation/offer.

        Take your pick. I mean the agreement for fan to contribute a specific amount before it would be moved into what I assume would be a secure bank account, not the formal offer.

        Either way I think it’s futile but worth a go, most fans can’t afford or won’t want to pay anything.

      • Damon Horner

        In addition, if there is anything you need support wise I’m happy to put myself forward.

  • Paul Patterson

    I think the author is living in 1991..

  • Rich Lawson

    I like the idea Bobbi,you have been unfortunate in that it was written and presented to The Mag before further revelations about HMRC which will impact on some peoples perception of the plan. I presume £2k is just part of a possible equation to finance a takeover and that more fans could pay less to suit their budget and still achieve the same result ? I’d love to have a say in NUFC and am of an age where I could put £2k in the pot,tho’ I appreciate not every one is that fortunate. How does this get implemented then ?

  • HarryHype59

    For once I agree with Bobbi. Fan ownership would be a positive thing. I disagree about his £400m valuation. It should be £250m , the amount Ashley originally put in, minus the £100m lost by him getting us relegated twice

    • Damon Horner

      I think despite what people think the club’s worth. He won’t sell the club for £250mil and likely not for less than £400mil

      • HarryHype59

        Only if we avoid the drop and don’t lose the TV deal. TV income is the factor that gives the club its value.

        I have a feeling this saga will be running through the next window! If Ashley won’t spend and Rafa walks we could be facing our third relegation in under ten years!

    • Oooh bobbi fleckman

      I appreciate your support Harry, especially as a former foe. However, the price can only be that which is acceptable to the guy in the chair but it also has to be in line with the real world. You rightly warn of the problems of not being in the EPL but ANYONE who takes over the club has to be confident of not making mistakes that result in relegation, a Newcastle United Investment trust, being fan owned should be more so.

      The profit stream makes the club valuable, I tease a little to suggest the profit streams can be higher, I really don’t think they will be but as a fixture in the premier league, NUFC is worth a hell of a lot.

      • HarryHype59

        The profit stream depends on the club maintaining its EPL status. That is why investment in an EPL standard forward is essential! Otherwise a relegation battle is on the cards as the season progresses!

        • Oooh bobbi fleckman

          The point being is that with the fans hand on the tiller, if we want to pile money in to buy a striker, we can.

          As for this season, we will stay up and we’ll be OK around 14th.

  • Toon fan

    Bobbi are you on Newcastle United fans only? This article subject seems familiar to a conversation on there 2 weeks or so ago

    • Oooh bobbi fleckman

      No, I wrote to NUST a few weeks ago suggesting this is the way for them to go. I don’t think it’s what they want to do.

      The next step is would be to set up a Newcastle United investment trust, that bit is easy, getting serious pledges will be difficult. We can see below that the crowd who are vociferous about Mike Ashley being tight seem to be less willing to get involved.

    • Oooh bobbi fleckman

      Sadly you can’t post links but I’m not familiar with that particular forum, however, I’d like to read that debate. I’ve searched for “Newcastle United fans only” and can just find the ronnie, how do i find it?

  • HappyToons

    It will never happen and it is cloud cuckoo land. The new breed of middle class fan might have £2000 pocket money, but the rest of us haven’t. Most can barely afford a few away games as it is. I am looking for a replacement car and £2 to £3k is my budget, so £2k??? We need a reality check as still the majority of fans are hard up and their only spare money and savings is already spent on a season ticket.
    Just like thinking Amanda was at the match and interested in NUFC. We”ll end up with ‘Wong ‘Uns Chinese Firecrackers’ on our shirts or ‘Barry’s Budget Batteries’ as I am sure there is as many potential buyers as there are Geordies with a spare £2k in their back pocket.
    I am guessing Bobbi is early 30’s on £50k plus a year and her hubby is a Man U fan?

    • Oooh bobbi fleckman

      You don’t have to have £2,000, that just has to be the average contribution based on 250,000 fans. If you can afford £50, you just get a smaller share.

      We all know people struggling and we all know people doing rather well. There will be people who can throw £100k in the pot, obviously they get mre of a ‘say’ and moreover, should the trust decide to sell up in the future, they have potentially more to gain.

      I’ll do a follow up article to put a little meat on the bone.

    • Leazes Ender

      It a bloke called Dave in his sixties.

  • DavyB

    Unfortunately, this is a pipe dream. There is no way this is ever going to happen. You talk about return on investment at 7.5% but what about reinvestment in players? You talk about Sports Direct advertising etc. Knowing Mike Ashley, he will have something in place to guarantee his advertising space for the foreseeable future and he will also keep the rights to club merchandise and SJP (much like he did at Rangers).
    The only way we get rid of this leach is by someone richer than him willing to come in and pay over the odds for the club and agree to his extortionate T’s & C’s.

  • David Matthew Baker

    What you are forgetting is there are some big names who support the club (Shearer, Ant and Dec all come straight to mind) and still must have a decent amount of net capital. Surely they would be the people to start off by talking to. If you could get some of the big earners who still really want their home city and club to do well you could get that price down to where it is more affordable. Also I don’t think you want to consider how many times you can fill the stadium. Some people who support clubs live too far away and others can’t afford to go. However if a crowdfunding type scheme was put in place and people donated what they could afford I think it may be surprising how much could be raised. The club would certainly be best in the hands of the local people. I also don’t think that really it wants to be sold as a way to make money. Ideally you want to get people to donate because they care about the club. That way any profits that are made can be ploughed back into the club itself, the training academy and local charitable causes. This could really make the club the heart of the city that it has always been purported to be. Although I would be willing to take the larger payments from our celebrity fans as loans that are paid back over an extended period of time. If you could get any of the big names on board I also think getting little people to give some backing might be easier.