Today’s Newcastle United Fans Forum minutes were an absolute disgrace.
An excellent piece on The Mag by Chris Holt showed them up for what they were.
However, one thing really stood out for me and needs looked at in greater detail, in my opinion.
This concerns whether Newcastle United need a bigger stadium and how that might be achieved.
The first part of that is surely a pretty easy question to answer…
However, the club argued the case for the demand NOT really being there.
As the prime exhibit they put forward Saturday’s game against West Brom.
This was a match that sold out.
Not only that but it was a meaningless game (NUFC already safe), against the least attractive possible opposition, and a team that actually brought the lowest away following of the season of under a thousand fans.
Newcastle supporters buying up the two thousand or so tickets that West Brom didn’t want.
Newcastle United using the argument that because a block of tickets West Brom sent back late, didn’t sell out quickly (though they did still sell out eventually!), that is an indicator of not a great demand for a capacity of more than the current 52,000 or so.
This is Alice in Wonderland stuff with everything turned upside down.
So would they then also argue that because Newcastle had on average a thousand or so empty seats each game in the Championship, that this backs up a lack of demand theory!!!
St James Park has been full all this season with rare exceptions and in the minutes below the club even say they had to set a cap on season ticket sales last summer!
To do this when the football has been largely poor and the team struggling in the league, only winning three home games before February, it is extraordinary.
A development on land opposite the Gallowgate End is assumed by most fans to set to end any chance, short and long-term of St James Park ever been significantly increased. The development is going to be hotels, student accommodation and retail.
In reference to when this development is going to happen, NUFC replied ‘The club checked on the status of the land before the Fans Forum meeting and reported that no progress has been made by developers.’
This is just the best.
The person they had to ‘check’ with was developer Mike Ashley!
The lease on the land opposite the Gallowgate was owned by the club and Mike Ashley moved it into his private possession (and paid a fee for that), so he could personally benefit from this building of hotels and student accommodation, which would then end any realistic chance of making the capacity bigger.
Only at Newcastle United…
As for the potential cost, the club’s comments are a waste of time.
Yes any expansion at the Gallowgate End wouldn’t be cheap but the very fact that there is clearly no intention of even having a feasibility study following on from when Shepherd and Hall explored the possibility, tells us that Mike Ashley has zero interest in the matter.
Newcastle United Fans Forum Minutes – Wednesday 2 May 2018:
The club had received a number of questions in relation to this issue after recording a large number of sell-outs during the 2017/18 season.
PF outlined that NUST has pushed for stadium expansion at the Gallowgate End for a long period of time.
PF advised that NUST had previously met with construction firm Tolent, which was involved in potential redevelopment of the Strawberry Place site. Tolent produced a report to show that the Gallowgate End could be cantilevered and extended to accommodate an additional 8,000 – 10,000 supporters.
PF stated that NUST would not make a business case for the redevelopment as they did not feel it would be viable, but they believe the club would want to have more supporters inside the stadium if it could.
LM (Lee Marshall on behalf of the club) highlighted the club’s comments from two consecutive Fans Forums in 2014, 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.
At that time, the club also stated that selling St. James’ Park to build a new stadium was not an attractive or realistic option.
SW asked if demand for tickets had changed since 2014. PF suggested that the size of television broadcasting deals could make financing stadium expansion easier. SH suggested that the club could keep expansion as a possibility rather than ruling it out, particularly with high demand for ticket.
The club reiterated its stance that outlaying what could potentially be tens of millions of pounds to expand would be unwise financially.
The club stated that there is demand for tickets for ‘bigger’ games but that this is not always the case for other matches, when demand tails off.
The club highlighted Saturday’s match against West Bromwich Albion, which had originally sold out. The visitors returned a block of seats on Level 7 in advance, however those tickets were being sold in very small quantities each day, indicating that demand was not especially high.
JM asked if there is a waiting list for season tickets.
For this season, the club reached a ‘soft’ cap of around 40,000 season ticket holders. The club will reassess this cap if necessary depending on renewal levels.
The club stated that – prior to the redevelopment – its waiting list had approximately 18,000 supporters. The club does not feel that there is excessive demand for tickets in most cases.
SW asked if any fresh developments had been made where Strawberry Place is concerned.
The club checked on the status of the land before the Fans Forum meeting and reported that no progress has been made by developers.