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Newcastle United Fans Forum – Mike Ashley regime running scared and set to cancel again?

8 months ago
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The Newcastle United Fans Forum will meet Lee Charnley and other club officials on Tuesday (28 August 2018).

Many supporters looking forward to this meeting at St James Park, when the Newcastle fans in attendance will be able to ask some searching questions about the running of the club.

Surely an ideal situation for both sides.

The fans able to ask questions directly of Lee Charnley (the only member of the Newcastle United board and the club’s only named executive) and other staff.

Whilst from the club’s/Mike Ashley’s side, a perfect opportunity to deliver in a controlled safe environment, the truth (as they see it) on the various issues that  supporters are concerned about.

However…

Only three days to go before that Newcastle United Fans Forum and it is very much looking like it might not go ahead.

Sadly, for those fans who have made the time and effort to take part in the Fans Forum, they have been treated with utter contempt by the club. The Mike Ashley regime failing totally to approach these meetings in good faith.

Members of the Newcastle United Fans Forum have responded to questions from other supporters on social media, who have asked if the meeting is indeed happening on Tuesday and can they ask various questions on their behalf. However, the Fans Forum members have responded, saying that they have no idea whether the meeting will take place, as the club hasn’t even had the courtesy to reply to forum members who have asked if it is actually going to happen as scheduled by them.

When the minutes of the last meeting on 25 April 2018 were released, the club guaranteed that the next meeting would take place on 28 August 2018, then another on 12 February 2019 and following that 21 May 2019.

These set dates were in response to the club continually messing the Fans Forum members about, regularly delaying meetings and indeed there had been a disgraceful 10 month gap between the previous one (29 June 2017) and that most recent meeting (25 April 2018). The club refusing requests to meet all season as Mike Ashley had undermined Rafa Benitez, failing to keep promises on transfer funds and leading to a season long relegation battle. Only once safety was assured did that April meeting take place.

This is the club’s commitment to the Newcastle United Fans Forum for future meetings, from the minutes of that 25 April 2018 meeting:

The club apologised for delays in the regularity of Fans Forum meetings.

Phil Lee (PL) was concerned that the club could be seen as not being committed to the Fans Forum process.

The club accepted that view but hoped that supporters who had been involved with the process since 2013 would acknowledge how committed the club has been to communicating openly as part of the Forum.

Steve Hastie (SH) stated that Arsenal run Fans Forums on matchdays and enquired as to whether this would be possible.

The club advised that several members of the management team would be operational on matchdays and that this would negatively impact the time and attention that could be given to meetings.

Peter Fanning (PF) suggested committing to dates for future meetings would send out a positive message about the club’s commitment to the Fans Forum.

The club agreed and has proposed the following dates for future Fans Forums: Tuesday 28th August 2018; Tuesday 12th February 2019; Tuesday 21st May 2019.

The Newcastle United Fans Forum is a total joke compared to how other clubs present theirs, elsewhere they make footage of the meetings available so all supporters can see and hear what is said from both sides. Not Newcastle, the wider fanbase only gets to read the carefully controlled minutes released by the club. Not saying that what is included in the minutes are lies – but rather we don’t get to see/read what isn’t included in the minutes that are prepared/controlled by NUFC.

As one previous example of the contempt shown by the club to the Newcastle United Fans Forum, I will take you back to one of the many previous relegation battles under Mike Ashley, the 2014/15 season when Newcastle only reached safety on the final day of the season (Jonas Gutierrez scoring in that 2-0 win over West Ham).

With relegation threatening and the fans very unhappy with what was happening at the club, the Fans Forum members sent a collective letter on 21 April 2015 asking for an urgent meeting with Lee Charnley and the other club officials (NUFC having always repeatedly refused all previous requests for Mike Ashley himself to attend at least on Fans Forum to address supporter concerns).

Charnley actually replied only five days later (see below) and actually agreed to meet the fans ASAP, before the scheduled end of season Newcastle United Fans Forum meeting.

However…despite forum members repeatedly reminding the club/Lee Charnley of this commitment to an urgent meeting, their emails were ignored and no such meeting took place.

It was actually 6 July 2015 when the next Forum meeting took place, fully 71 days after Lee Charnley had agreed to an urgent meeting before the end of the season (that West Ham match was 24 May 2015).

Lee Charnley letter to NUFC Fans Forum members – 26 April 2015

“In order to discuss the issues you raise, I intend to bring forward the date of our next Fans Forum meeting which was originally scheduled for the end of the season.

“I am sure Forum members past and present will agree that the Club has been open and transparent during all interactions, including meetings and correspondence, and this next meeting will be no different.

“In my opinion, the introduction of the Forum has been productive for all the parties involved and, as we move forward, the Forum will continue to be one of our preferred forms of fan communication and engagement.

“With five games now remaining of the season – including three at St. James’ Park, I would ask you, indeed all supporters, to get fully behind John Carver and the players as they look to finish the season as strongly as possible.

“When St. James’ Park is loud and supportive of the team on the pitch, it does make a huge difference.”

“We accept mistakes have been made and understand you raise these issues because you want the best for your football club.

“Please be assured we want the same – we want to give you a football club you can be proud of and a team you feel passionate to support.”

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