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Opinion

The real Newcastle United Fans Forum minutes – A work of genius and a must read

10 months ago
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The Newcastle United Fans Forum minutes were eventually released on Wednesday morning.

Published fully a week after the meeting had been held, they weren’t exactly worth the wait.

A group of Newcastle fans are giving their time and energy to try and do something productive, only for the club to approach each fans forum meeting in the utmost bad faith.

If you want to read the club’s version of the latest Newcastle United Fans Forum minutes go here – but if you want read the ‘real’ ones, then read on here for this classic take from Chris Holr on what the minutes really tell us…

/The club brought the meeting to order by first stating for the avoidance of doubt that nobody in the room has any power whatsoever. The owner’s people on the ground are Keith (Harold) Bishop and Justin Barnes.  Neither of whom would ever see fit to show any public responsibility or take on an official title.  Every decision for Newcastle United is made at Sports Direct Head office in Shirebrook. The people in the room have been appointed as caretakers only and rarely speak to Mike Ashley themselves.

The club apologised for delays in the regularity of Fans Forum meetings but didn’t justify that in any way.

There was concern that the club could be seen as not being committed to the Fans Forum process.

The club accepted that view but argued the opposite, despite the evidence and their prior apology not a moment earlier for having not had a forum in 10 months. Like it or lump it.

It was stated that Arsenal run Fans Forums on match days and asked whether this would be possible.

The club advised that several members of the management team would be operational on match days.  There have been so many redundancies at the club that all the staff are run ragged, performing multiple roles.  There’s no way Ashley will employ an adequate number of people to provide a genuine supporter forum like other clubs.

Can the club commit to dates for future meetings? It would send out a positive message about the club’s commitment to the Fans Forum.

The club agreed and has proposed dates for future Fans Forums should be after the transfer windows close, after season ticket renewals close, and after the season ends, so any concerns that are brought to the forum will be too late to act on.

Ticketing Update

Let’s concentrate on what’s gone well with ticketing and ignore the fact we refuse to follow the example of almost every other club by actually publishing ticket categories and prices for the entire season annually, rather than game by game.

Safe standing

The club pledged to share the public petition for a commons debate on Safe Standing via social media on the following day. This was published on the club’s Twitter and Facebook accounts on Thursday 26th April 2018.  It was quickly followed by a note that the club doesn’t necessarily support safe standing.

When will the club’s next set of accounts be published?

The club explained that a date has not yet been set for publication but that the next set of accounts would detail the considerable financial impact of the club’s relegation to the Championship for the 2016/17 season.

Mike Ashley repeatedly changes the accounting periods of his businesses to avoid publishing their accounts in a timely manner and keep them shrouded in mystery and the accounts are currently showing as “overdue” at the companies house website.

Stadium expansion

The club’s comments from two consecutive Fans Forums in 2014 were highlighted, which indicated that extending the Gallowgate would not make sense commercially and that its view was likely to remain unchanged in the short and medium term and potentially the long term.

But that’s not why the club don’t expand. Mike Ashley is developing the land behind the Gallowgate end as a personal business venture having bought the land from Newcastle United in 2009.  Everyone knows that the financial rewards of a large stadium are further dwarfed by TV revenues every three years.  As that continues there will only be less financial incentive to expand, yet clubs continue to do it.  Tottenham and Everton will soon push Newcastle into 9th place for Stadium size.

Why? A Premier League stadium is a status symbol, it’s about accommodating all your fans and assuring the widest possible support for the future, not necessarily making money.  But these aims, which top clubs prioritise, cannot take precedence at Newcastle over Mike Ashley’s personal business interests.

Fixture scheduling

The club has no appetite for challenging the Premier league or broadcasters on their criteria for selecting games or refusing a change after a deadline.

Manager and transfers

The club haven’t been able to convince Rafa his ambition can be met at Newcastle as yet, so he’s not signed a contract as yet.

The club discussed, in addition to transfer fees, that there are often significant costs such as its wage bill and agents fees that are not factored in or referred to, as if other clubs don’t have those factors to consider while outspending NUFC.

The club stated they made offers to buy players in January prior to acquiring players on loan. Maybe the effort should be applauded rather than the failure criticised.

Remember the  state of-the-art crowd-facing LED system that was installed 4 years ago at great expense?  Just be grateful for that!  Ignore that it’s purported purpose of increasing commercial income is negated by it’s use to advertise Sports Direct for Free

Is the club for sale?

The club stated that the position has not changed and if or when there is anything to update, the club would do so.

Here’s the statement Derek Llambias made in 2011, which still stands:

“If I can draw an analogy: My house is not for sale. In fact you could offer me twice what it is worth and it would still not be for sale because it has a personal value to me right now that is greater than twice the price. But if someone knocks on my door with a truly extraordinary figure, a sum which I had never imagined would be offered, then there comes a time when I have to seriously consider it.”

You can follow the author on Twitter @bigchrisholt
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