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:

Stadium expansion

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.

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  • Paul Patterson

    The club say things purely ad hoc, without thought. Nobody knows how successful we can be in future, (likely without Ashley) but to deny the club and its fans the mere chance or opportunity to do so, shows that the owner doesn’t have the fans/clubs interests at heart, only his own.

    • Andy Mac

      Fatman has never had the interests of the fans at heart. Otherwise we’d have saved ourselves two relegations

    • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

      They haven’t denied an opportunity, they’ve left the opportunity open but say there is no demand right now.

  • Albert Stubbins

    Even if he could expand and have the demand for 80,000 he wouldn’t do it. Why you ask and a fair question it would be. The answer is there’s more money in property development!! It’s all doon to greed with the Fatman as we all know!!

  • East Durham Mag

    No matter what certain Ashley groupies on here say the bottom line is Fatty could not give a f*ck about the club or its supporters.

  • MichaelMaximusMoose

    The Pie man isn`t interested in Nufc, these articles are a waste of time

  • Andy Mac

    Fans forum = Talking shop. Paying lip service to PL rules about engaging with the fanbase.

    Fans should be made aware that Fatso is selling their land for his own benefit.

    • Rabid Dog

      It is a complete waste of time. Prearranged questions with non committal answers.

      I get even more annoyed by the list of apologies who couldn’t make it. More rhan 20% this time. It’s 3 times a year at most.

      No awkward question ever gets answered truthfully, honestly and with any transparency.

      Joke Forum more like

      • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

        Anyone can be nominated to join the forum, a pal of mine was a rep but his 2 years was up last summer. His view was that it started badly with people trying to grind their axe but became productive.

        For instance, the fans forum with the help of the club lobbied the city council to block Strawberry place on a match-day because of the vulnerabilities the crowd has to a speeding vehicle. The council were not helpful bot the forum and club worked together.

      • Monkseaton Magpies

        Agree with you on that. I have applied countless times to get on the forum without success and some cannot be even bothered to turn up. Applied again this year but doubt I will have any joy.

  • Cockneytrev

    It’s well seen that these club representatives are not Newcastle fans, the fact that they are stating there is no demand,, if the greedy owner spent the money on a decent squad and we had some success we could fill a 75000 seater stadium I have no doubt,, look at the numbers who turn up the greet the team when we have LOST a cup final…..
    The owner, these “spit houses” masquerading as club representatives and the media in general (who are in Ashley’s pocket,,,, ) should hang their collective heads in shame for the way they have treated this great club…

  • Danimal

    Since the late 90s when there was a huge buzz around Newcastle and SJP in general, there has been a shift in consumer behaviour, to the point where northeastern football fans are no longer bothered, much preferring an afternoon with the wife in John Lewis, while fans of previously small clubs in London (such as Palace and West Ham) have suddenly discovered a huge appetite for the national game and need much bigger stadiums… According to Mike Ashley and the regular contributor(s) here, who occasionally emerge from his rear end to take a breath and sprout their brown-nosing agenda. Over to you Ghost of Bobbi Monkfish.

    • Monkseaton Magpies

      We have just about the highest occupancy rate of seats sold in the Premiership so that is down to Mike Ashley check the figures.

      • Danimal

        It is down to trends.

        • Danimal

          And cheap seats (to be fair, I’m ok with that).

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            So, put up prices and get.more money in? That’s ok with me, the admosadmi price is less than travel and booze but that will effect demand.

      • Danimal

        I know you live up his back passage but do you seriously believe anyone goes to watch Newcastle United play as a result of your zero hours scum hero?

      • Paul Patterson

        Or, despite Mike Ashley, more the point.

      • justchampion

        Despite mike Ashley, plum.

  • Monkseaton Magpies

    The facts are this. West Brom sent one thousand five hundred tickets back which were quickly sold when they went on general sale. However with a week to go before the match they sent a further five hundred tickets back. The tickets took six days to sell out and it was late Friday afternoon when it sold out. So if we expand the capacity by ten thousand that’s ten thousand empty seats for the West Brom game please explain what is wrong with the clubs statement.

    • Danimal

      Defeatist. Just like Stan Seymour “we can’t expect to compete with the likes of Liverpool”, Gordon McKeag, George Forbes etc. Defeatist. I remember how you and your defeatist friends were back then. You lot were desperate for us to know our place, stay in our disgusting stadium and muddle along in the second division indefinitely (perhaps with the odd visit to div 3).

    • jack

      Once again you take Ashley’s side ,you really are a grovelling [email protected]

      • Monkseaton Magpies

        That is the clubs view on West Brom and they were right

        • nevfur

          No, actually the facts are that the game was a sellout. A pretty meaningless end of season game by a poor side v the team bottom of the table. Suddenly without everyone even being aware of it extra tickets became available in one of the parts of the ground with the worst view and still sold out in less than a week. The clubs point is absolute rubbish but either no one was given the chance to say that to Penfold or bothered to.
          The arguments of building restrictions on the east, and expense at the Gallowgate for an owner looking to leave I can understand but the above argument is garbage.
          BTW Newcastle councillors when asked recently stated that the Gallowgate building work would not prevent ground expansion. This needs clarification and restrictions put in place to ensure its true. When we eventually get a decent owner if they want to expand and the only way is a new out of town stadium the city will lose a fortune.

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            If the council planners are saying there is no reason to oppose expansion and the architects say it can be built then we’re at exactly the same point as we were in 2006, it can be built but it’s too expensive. In 2006, there was a proposed joint venture with MGM who would stand some fo the costs and incorporate a casino. That’s not possible now.

          • nevfur

            The cost is always going to be high and an owner looking to sell understandably won’t ever pay it but ambitious owners would. The important thing is to clarify that any building work done on the metro site doesn’t prevent Stadium expansion and protect that option so it’s always still a possibility.

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            That’s already been confirmed

          • nevfur

            This would depend on what was built on the metro site and how it is built. If something goes up with a lot of windows on the football ground side I can’t see a ground expansion being popular. Still, it’s all hypothetical at the moment.

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            It may not be popular but it’s going to be a transient population of students. I don’t see students making an objection and awaiting the whole process. The bit that gets close to the stadium is the narrow annex that heads towards the Strawberry.

            As you say, It’s hypothetical. The orignal proposal in 2006 was a casino and hotel, unless the hotel was going to be Hollow with an atrium, that hotel was going to suffer from very little light on the North side and in the middle. I had my doubts that the stadium part of that proposal would ever be built even at the time.

            For what it’s worth, I can see any development being mainly cosmetic and far more cost-effective than replicating the Leazes end. A new roof on the Gallowgate, Milburn corner and old ‘corner’ to the same height as the Milburn in the same translucent style. A double row of exec boxes in line with the Milburn and Leazes with the back of the Gallowgate effectively being lifted up to L7 but not going as far back as the Milburn or Leazes. This will not add as much weight but the height from ground level could still leave some structural engineering issues and will be huge from ground level – St james Park is built on quite a steep hill. The main TV gantry then goes over to the East Stand, advertising potential increased with three levels of mobile ads and potential for a south facing food & drink deck over the Strawberry Pl. The additional seating will be just 1,000-2,000 mainly in the corner where the current exec boxes can be removed.

          • nevfur

            Interesting idea but still sounds expensive taking into account the height for minimal increase in crowds.

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            The height is going to be costly, Barrack road does drop a fair bit from the Leazes park to Strawberry Pl. However, any development will surely try and replicate the height of the roof on the Milburn, it really would look cheap if it wasn’t. However, according to my bother who is a civil engineer, it can be done ‘on the cheap’ by making the part that needs to be caterlever a little smaller, essentially, not much bigger than the prefab roof that is on the Gallowgate right now with the pilings that support the current roof utilised as well as a few more.

          • nevfur

            Interesting, short term at least. It certainly would look good with 3 sides the same. Pity about the other side though. Can’t have the already overshadowed Leazes terrace that no one ever goes to look at overshadowed a bit more lol

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            The big problem with extending the Gallowgate is the height required & the metro line underneath meaning the cost is disproportionate.

            Fans have reacted negetively but the club is right, there is no season ticket waiting list, I’ve sat with empty seats around me this season and last. Whilst the owner is selling the club, stadium plans are for the next owner.

            The money comes from TV so the key is to look good on the TV. At Brighton I noticed they give the illusion of three tiers and wrap around stands yet it is just an illusion in reality, the top tier is just 4 rows deep.

            The East Stand has its issues and in reality, the thing to have done was move stadium in the 90’s but that’s done now.

        • jack

          Well that’s typical of you toeing the party line isn’t it ? Like the regime your totally devoid of ambition , but what’s new , same old same old with you

          • Monkseaton Magpies

            To be truthful the extra tickets moved at a snails pace and it was only on the Friday that they sold out. Yes for big games we could do with more but for mid week games we always struggle to sell out eg Everton and Burnley. For me fifty thousand is the right number. I can see the likes of West Ham and Arsenal and Spurs having trouble selling out in the future. Last week Spurs had 36,000 empty seats against Watford and they are pushing for Europe. I tell it how I see it and study the ticket sales every day so I know what I am talking about.

          • jack

            The operative word is ‘returned’,so it’s pretty obvious because of returned and the location of the tickets , they would take a little bit longer to sell , what’s wrong with you man , we could expand ground another twenty thousand and fill the stadium .Does everything the regime say , you believe , they’ve been proven as all pathological liars on many occasions .Support the team not the regime and think for yourself

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            The location of the Gallowgate extension is going to be a very similar view. The hardest to sell.

      • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

        He’s taking the club’s side. It’s also the logical side.

        • jack

          Well if you think that then your just as bad as him, every comment he’s ever made on here sticks up for the regime , so I don’t see that as being logical

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            The debate about the stadium is logical. There appears to be no case to spend a disproportional about of money to increase capacity by a relatively small number.

            I’d be amazed if fans really wanted to miss out on player purchases or sell existing players to finance a stand.

          • jack

            I don’t think it’s logical at all , Ashley has made enough money from Newcastle to have expanded the capacity and spend decent amount on transfers since the time he’s been here , and I wouldn’t say increasing by ten thousand is a small amount , like I said your just like monseaton

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            He’s not made any money yet, he only makes money if he sells over £275m and even then, it’s getting his money hack, little else

          • jack

            And season after season we spend next to nothing , and targets are continually missed , so nothing is new there is it ?

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            Really? According to Transfermkt We spent €31m in net transfers including €9 option paid for Merino.

            So many say they will not go to the match with Ashley in charge. Why would Ashley spend money to accommodate those who say they will not go to the match?

            It’s logic fella.

          • jack

            I think you’ll find those figures totally wrong

          • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

            They list all the deals, look about right. The missing one is Merino where the €9m is missing, I think it may find its way into 2019.

            Which one do you think is wrong?

    • csh

      What is wrong is that the club obviously have no vision for long or short term success, which would enhance demand for tickets.
      Fatty would rather line his own pockets than see the club do well.

    • Haitchdee

      The club could make seats available to those with a less than healthy bank balance. Also cheap seating for kids, Give a little back and encourage future support. Not under this shower of Sh*** me thinks .

      • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

        Our seat prices are amongst the cheapest in the country. The pricing is not set in advance so seats can be cheaper to reflect demand.

        Expanding the stadium would take an estimated 35 years to break even at the regular cheaper seat price of £25, if you give cheaper seats to less well off folk (not sure how you test this) then the payback will be even longer.

        Most want Mike Ashley to leave in the summer, he’s not going to land the new owner with a construction project that will lose money.

      • Monkseaton Magpies

        Think your statement is wrong. We have one of the largest family enclosures in the Premier league at cheap prices and all fans had the option of season tickets with a frozen price for ten years.
        I contacted the club about cheap seats for the unemployed and less well off but they said in the past there had been abuses of the system. The club do offer cheap tickets for the disabled. All in all they do an excellent job.

    • Malcolm Fisher

      Who said the extra ten thousand seats would go to the visiting team?

  • Mrkgw

    What a detestable regime. Nothing ever seems to be to the benefit of the club. All take. Disgusting.

  • wheyayeman

    He was far from perfect but Sir John Hall at least had a genuine ambition for NUFC – as others have said if Ashley actually aimed to develop the club, invest in the squad and develop the ground – you could raise the capacity to 70k and never have empty seats. This club is the sleeping Giant of the North and with good stewardship could leave any rival club in the shade.

    • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

      It could, it could also throw money into the stadium, not have enough money for players and the club could be relegated.

      We weren’t full in every game last season and in reality, only when we were in the top 3 did we fill it. Some of the seat prices were very cheap in order to get everyone in.

  • justchampion

    I get why jabba has no interest in expanding. He wants out so it does not make economic sense. However how can planning permission be granted when SJP will have any expansion curtailed because of the development. How can planners be so short sighted why have questions not been raised as to how it can possibly go ahead?

    • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

      Nobody has applied for planning permission for a stand. Archiatects have indicated it can be done and the council are in favour in principle.

  • Rich Lawson

    The only way to expand the current ground is to go higher,ffs, I’ve sat on the very back row of the Milburn for a game and the view was awful,they won’t charge any less for the restricted view and if you pay your money you deserve to actually be able to watch the match without binoculars.I’ve sat on the top tier at Old Trafford,which is what, 75’000 ? Same again,can’t see the game properly..

    • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

      Currently, that seat you sat in cost more to construct that most of the seats in the stadium. If the Gallowgate was expanded in line with the Milburn, the top seats in that stand would cost more again to construct.

      The figures estimated back in 2006 suggested the cost per seat was 3x that of the Milburn / Leazes.

      You are spot on, it costs more to construct a less attractive seat.

  • Mxpx

    Could we not buy out all the property behind the east stand and bulldoze em so we’re not taking anyone’s light ? I genuinely don’t know what the answer is to this one but I imagine that would be 15-20k extra as well as an extra 8-10k at the gallowgate end which if the club is ever sold would be easily sold out just on the excitement of having a proper owner albeit having an 80k capacity in the championship might be overkill

    • Andrew

      Can’t do that mate – the houses behind the East Stand are listed buildings and can’t be touched.

    • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

      It’s a listed building BUT there may be an argument that it’s cheaper to buy Leazes terrace, rebuild it further towards the park and then expand the east stand. The council planners may not love that!

      With the translucent roof, we could raise the roof up, this would still allow light in and build a small tier on top of the East stand.

      I wrote an article for the Mag in 1996, this thing to do then was to bulldoze the Milburn, turn the pitch 90 degrees so the East stand is behind the goal, extend the Gallogate and Leazes and rebuild a west / Milburn stand behind the goal. By sinking the pitch, a new lower tier would be created. Barrack road would need a little remodelling.

      • Mxpx

        The problem I see with that (pitch rotation) is id be amazed if we could do that in a three month window (ie between seasons) although it’s an excellent idea the only real option would be to play elsewhere while work was happening and I can’t imagine the only other stadium in the region of similar stature wanting to host us I’m not sure if it’s even possible engineering wise but I wonder if we could build another tier on the east stand at the same height as the top tier of the leazes and it be a completely seaporate structure leaving a gap between the two stands in order to allow light with the transparent roof it’s pretty clear there is more space to be had at the east stand than anywhere else if we can get planning for it and an owner with some ambition

        • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

          It was only possible back in the mid 90’s and yes, playing a full season would have been difficult.

  • Ram Kishore

    Guys we know Ashley wants to sell his club then why does his management team will want to have a thought of stadium expansion..
    Why do The Mag has to keep taking small issues to prove Mike Ashley is not interested or he’s the villain..

    We should be doing well in the pitch then we can obviously consider stadium expansion because it thinking of it right now is so useless.

    • Mxpx

      Ashleys actions don’t suggest he has the slightest interest in selling

      • Ram Kishore

        He’s just being a businessman.. a greedy once our survival confirmed

      • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

        He wants to sell.

  • NUFCDan

    Realistically due to the constraints of where we are located if the stadium was ever going to be redeveloped we’d have to do the same as what other clubs have done and use the city centre land value to offset the cost of building a new stadium on a much cheaper larger piece of land outside the city centre. Nobody wants that surely while its still reasonably easy to get tickets.

    • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

      We don’t own the land and the council may not allow us to sell the lease for anything other than football.

      I’d suggest, if any money was spent, it would be to buy the land whilst the council are whining on about cuts to their budget.

  • Ian John McMullen

    The West brom game attendance speaks for itself. Sold out against the bottom club likely to be relegated . A successful team would add 10,000 to the current soft cap 40000 season ticket limit. Add in the success factor which would add another 10,000 then yr at 60000 before taking into account away support whose average would jump to accommodate 6-8 clubs that could themselves bring another 4-8000. The success factor ie champions league football is what is needed as we all know which in itself would shorten the payback of any stadium enhancements . Interesting that Ashley is now behind the developer potential for the land at gallowgate. If property prices don’t substantiate a development in its own right then wait until yr successor regime create the team we all crave, ask them to come begging to buy the land back to build the capacity stadium we would then need and charge a fortune for said land to do so. I sit in the family seats and you can’t knock the club for providing a fantastic affordable price to access the club but their contempt for the heart and purpose of the club is blatant. The sooner we get a new owner the better.

  • Dont stop bobbi fleckman

    I can imagine the confusion at Mike Ashley’s office. One minutes he reads that there should be a boycott of the stadium until he leaves, the next minute he’s told the same fans want more capacity. Rather like a wife threatening to leave her husband but suggesting they buy a bigger house together as she’d like more kids.

    • Damon Horner

      I agree, arguably the club could do more but when those fans stuck in the 70’s thinking boycotts work were talking about it, my view was that the easy response for the club would be to say we don’t want the tickets and then not alter the ground.