The Newcastle United Fans Forum is set to meet on Monday (24 September).

Fair to say that the fans forum has attracted a lot of criticism from the wider fanbase.

Mostly to do with the perception that Mike Ashley and his minions don’t approach the whole process in the right spirit.

The belief being that the club manipulate the whole process and the fans who volunteer to take part, end up taking a certain amount of flak as they are seen to be used by Ashley and his people.

With a refusal to allow the Newcastle United Fans Forum to meet for the whole of last season until safety was achieved in April, matters were hardly helped, yet another way the club found to undermine those who volunteer to be involved.

Then when the latest scheduled forum (in August) was cancelled on the eve of the meeting, despite having been arranged for four months, it was just par for the course.

So what is it like for those inside the process?

We are grateful to Newcastle United Fans Forum member Jon Lane, who has agreed to give his own personal thoughts on how it works…or doesn’t:

The Newcastle United Fans Forum had always intrigued me since its inception. My perception before it went in was that the board weren’t really challenged on the right issues and ultimately it didn’t achieve a huge amount. I’d read the minutes, frustrated that certain questions that I had been suggesting to the right guys on Twitter hadn’t been raised, therefore I was always keen on joining.

I stopped my Season Ticket and became a “Member” in 2015, which arguably gave me a better chance of joining the Forum (not my motivation!). I’d applied previously and not heard anything but in February 2016 Lee Marshall called to let me know I’d been selected. I was excited, thrilled and was gutted I’d miss the first meeting.

The selection process gets a lot of heat but personally I think it makes a lot of sense. There is a wide range of different fan demographics represented, most of which are chosen at random every 2-3 years which ensures different people get a chance, not to mention different points of view have to be represented. As a classic example, myself and the “Away Rep” (has to attend at least 70% of Away games) discuss the loyalty scheme at large, and what might surprise you is we agree on more than you’d think given our polarising positions.

We (supporters involved in the fans forum) communicate in an email group (hoping to convert this to Whatsapp in the future) which ensures we can all submit agenda items/questions. I must stress that this is more for structure rather than a restriction exercise.  Lee Charnley will answer whatever questions he can in meetings and there have been multiple cases where he’s used “non-minuted” examples to expand on answers. This helps give us some clarity, but yeah we also feel that we’ve found out a bit of “gossip” sometimes that we know we can’t share.  We’re not restricted from raising further questions within the meeting with very much an “open Forum” atmosphere present through each agenda point.

Lee Marshall compiles all the minutes and emails onto us for approval before he then releases to the public.  We have the chance to challenge the account made and again he’s been more than happy to make adjustments.  The minutes give a strong flavour but won’t always capture the tone. Discussions are always constructive and at times can get heated, but that’s natural given that we’re all passionate about the club and how we’d like to see it run.

The first meetings I attended I found to be very constructive. A big win for us has been Strawberry Place, which I’d raised in a previous email chain, but was driven home by Kris Woods and Steve Hastie, along with Peter Fanning from NUST. Their work in pushing the Council has meant we now see Strawberry Place closed after the second half has kicked off.

I along with others found last season to be frustrating. The pre-season (2017/18) meeting took place (29 June 2017) around a week before before we signed Lejeune (4 July 2017), and the most recent meeting we’ve had took place in April (25 April 2018).  To illustrate how long this was, I remember talking to Phil the East Stand Rep in that first meeting about how I was going to become a father later that year, and by the next meeting she’d been fully weaned onto solids!

When the meeting did come along we again asked the right questions about various issues and got answers – not necessarily ones we wanted but explanations were offered by the club.  They committed to some fixed dates for future meetings for the coming season, along with a surprise in the minutes that we’ll be invited to a home match in November.

The recent postponement (of the 28 August 2018 meeting) has been well publicised and was communicated to us with around 24 hours notice.  Given the difficult Summer it felt like it sent all the wrong messages.  Most of (if not all) the members displayed their dissatisfaction and given the negative press the Forum has received, it felt like we’d just gone five steps back.

The reasoning we were given was that Lee Charnley was unavailable for the meeting and going ahead without him was counter productive. Although I agree with the sentiment, I’d have hoped that any clashes if genuine would’ve been ironed out sooner. That being said, for all we know it could be a genuine personal reason, no doubt we’ll get feedback on Monday around it.

The club are adamant that they want to communicate and be open and are fully committed to the Fans Forum. I believe them on this, however, sometimes there is only so much you can say as a business. And the reality is that Clubs have to be Commercially sensitive with any messages. They have to be considered in responses to difficult questions as a PR disaster could quite literally cost them Millions of pounds.

You probably didn’t expect to read this on The Mag by a fan but I don’t mind Charnley!

I think a lot of people forget how long he’s been at the club and has slowly been promoted up. He’s far from a “Derek Llambias” who has been dropped in from outside.  If he’s not up to the job, that’s not his fault, and rightly we need to know if he’s getting outside help/strong guidance around certain decisions by people in Ashley’s circle of trust.  He’s discussed things in meetings which has given us a little insight and will be honest if he can’t answer a question.  As for the way the Club is currently being run, I can only judge him if Rafa leaves at the end of this year. If the manager decides he wants to stay on an extended deal, Charnley will have played a huge part in that, which he’s unlikely to get any credit for.  If he doesn’t sign, he’ll (rightly) be one of the first blamed.

Newcastle United Fans Forum Members get a hard time and to be honest I don’t think we overly deserve it. A lot of us reach out on Social Media asking for questions and anyone who does respond, gets their question asked.   An example of one question which was ridiculed by many regarding Ball Boys, was something one of the reps had been asked repeatedly.  He was visibly embarrassed raising it at the time but what else could he do? We can only ask what we’re asked to!

There was one article written after the last forum which was essentially a “this is what you could’ve asked”, funnily the journalist didn’t think to write this 48 hours before, because we probably would’ve ensured we’d boxed those off. Most of the members go with pens and notepads and ensure we’ve not left the room without the contribution we wanted to make.  We’re far from “puppets” – none of us have been planted there and we all have strong views about the priorities of who we represent.  Don’t be afraid to get in touch and tell us what you want to be asked.

Bearing in mind at least three of the current Forum Seats are members of the Magpie Group, Monday’s meeting will be a more challenging tone with very specific questions about how the club is being run in relation to the owner.  I expect that Lee Charnley will be well versed in the messaging he wants to deliver and will answer what he can.  I hope that we get some positive answers, but if we don’t, we can only be responsible for what we’ve been asked to ask.  I doubt Ball Boys will get a mention this time round……

On a personal note, I really enjoy being involved in the Forum and it’s given me insight I’ve not had before. I was a ST Holder for 15 years and have supported the club for over 20 years and it’s an honour to have the chance to do the role.

We have been able to make a difference in the last two years but not always on the big issues. We’re not daft and we know we’re never going to be able to choose Rafa’s transfer funds or who our next signing will be. But we can certainly make sure we are able to ask the questions the club needs to be asked and that the fans want asked.

Given the current mood, Monday promises to be an intriguing meeting, as always – I hope it’s constructive.

I promise you that any questions you want to be asked will be if you ask them of us.  There is still time to get those to us through NUST, NUFC Fans United, NUDSA or any of the individual reps that represent you specifically.

Any Members are free to contact me via Twitter (@jonlane86) or email me ([email protected]) if you have any questions you want to have asked.

To feature like Jon Lane submit your article to [email protected] and/or for more info go here

  • SuperDesHamilton

    Do you get any decent biscuits with your cuppa or what?

    • Ron

      Depends on how much you’re willing to pay.

      • SuperDesHamilton

        We currently can’t afford a biscuit bill, Benitez has been given every penny….

        • Ron

          That’s why he’s selling biscuits – need a left back in January.

    • Ron

      Nice question nice biscuit, nasty question – struck from the minutes and barred without finishing the tea.

      • SuperDesHamilton

        A bet they used one tea bag for the full forums cups of tea the tight b######

        • Ron

          And bring it out for each meeting

          • SuperDesHamilton

            Aye the tea bags on the minutes clock as well, penfold is that thick he probably talks to it

  • Rabid Dog

    The reason many of us question the value of the

  • Kenny

    Penfold is the Fat Rats Martin Bormann

  • Gallowgate Dave

    This is about the only chance we have to question “the board” (Charnley) and force them to show some accountability and it clearly makes them uncomfortable judging by how infrequently they do it and the cancellations so while we know it’s of limited value I’d far prefer this than nowt. If every fan refused to engage with this it’d give Ashley the perfect opportunity to spin to the national press that he tries but we aren’t interested. To the author – great article, ignore the moaners who do nowt but complain and get the club challenged, plenty of ammo for this one!

  • Leazes.

    Jon wrote……” big win for us has been Strawberry Place”….

    I thought for a moment you might have asked why Charnley allowed the sale of the development land…. alas no…its about traffic concerns!

    I bet you get an extra biscuit this time!

    Why did you volunteer with nothing but administrative concerns to contribute, are you expecting truth from someone who was called ‘less than honest’ by a high court judge?

    Acceptance of prepared answers….the club has been systematically downsized and you can’t see past the biscuit….

    On another note….where is Charnley from, much was said about him being from the Wirral, but all I can find is someone who was born in Devon? After his disgraceful tenure in this chairman’s seat why do you think he’s there?

    Give yourself a shake man and get the cobwebs dusted, or resign and let someone who cares about a bigger picture take your seat!

    • Billmag

      Well he thinks the ball boy situation was a step in the right direction, good grief the club is crumbling ask pertinent questions even if it means getting barred.

      • Ron

        The ballboy situation is interesting, there are a couple on holiday from Russia who will do the away game at Chelsea. That’s likely to be the only match the FCB will go to.

      • Leazes.

        I think if he was on the Titanic he’d be complaining about the sudden steepness of the flooring.

    • al-k-traz

      The “Strawberry Place” issue was NOT actually about traffic per se, and all about concerns over a potential vehicle-based terrorist attack on our fans.
      As a Forum Member who was involved in the discussions with the Club, the Council, and Northumbria Police, I can tell that the push by the Forum was critical in getting Strawberry Place closed after matches. My disappointment is that the road is not also closed before matches because that is now the time any such attack would inevitably be launched.
      I certainly itend to raise this again at Monday’s Meeting. Unfortunately, the necessary action lies with Newcastle City Council and the Police rather than NUFC management.
      I firmly believe the Forum is a useful vehicle for raising the legitimate concerns of fans and has had a number of successes in this regard. However, it is not within our gift to ensure a sale of the club or that Rafa is given £100m to spend on players in January.
      If the critics would think about that 5 minutes they might realise there are limits to what the Forum can achieve, but at least we maintain a healthy dialogue with the club on a great many issues.
      At the end of the day there are those who do what is possible, and the ‘keyboard warriors’ who do nothing constructive whatsoever.

      • Leazes.

        God help us if that is true, because people like you certainly wont

        You seem more concerned about nothing than something! Stopped terrorism did you….well done I’ll nominate you for the Nobel Peace Prize!

      • Rabid Dog

        The fans forum should be holding a mirror up to the club leadership and asking for answers on topics such as:
        Ground sponsorship and why there is no progress on the incoming revenue promised.

        Why the upgrading of the training and academy facilities has not materialised.

        Why every penny generated is not spent inside the club.

        Why we have a “board” of 1 person.

        Get clear and direct answers to these, repeatedly asked questions…. we might listen

    • Pezza

      This shows a total lack of understanding of the issue Jon refers to.

      He means the concerns about the vulnerabilities the Gallowgate end fans are exposed to should there be a terrorist attack using vehicles such as those suffered in London and elsewhere.

      The council were unwilling to close the road before and after the match. They compromised in the way only a council can, they closed the road after the match .

      As you bring up strawberry place but ignore explanations, be clear. The strawberry place land was sold with the shares in MGM NCL for £6m, the amount with MGM was actually £2.5m, St james holdings paid the club £5m for the MGM (ncl) shares, a profit of £2.5m, the land also provided the club with a profit.

      • Albert Stubbins

        The clubs been under terrorist attack for 11 years. Ashley has been harder to find than Bin Ladin and has done more damage to Newcastle United than a suicide bomber. Pity he didnt blow himself up!!

  • Kevin Christie

    Where does the Fans Forum take place? Another Ashley Out protest outside could hardly be a bad idea…?!

    • Leazes.

      Three of the protest organisers are inside the meeting.

      • Kevin Christie

        Leaving the vast majority free to attend a protest outside! 😉

        • Leazes.

          You only need three…one with a sack, another with a rope, and one to drive the van.

          • Kevin Christie

            Haha. Agreed! 😁

          • Sickandtired

            We could use two Russian ‘tourists’ about now.

          • Kenny


          • Geordiegiants

            You only need one loud bang Leazes.

  • Sickandtired

    Questions in advance. Answers in advance prepared for the day. No dissent allowed and as proved in the past, if anyone produces minutes of the meeting other than the Club’s version, they’ll be banned.

    • Kevin Christie

      Yeah, unfortunately it seems a bit too stage-managed to be of any real use. The revolution will not start at the Fans Forum and lies and bluster from the ‘board’ need to be ignored. Protests must continue. BOYCOTT NEEDS TO HAPPEN.

      • Leazes.

        ‘Forum’ means an open debate….. this isn’t a forum!

        • Pezza

          So says the bloke who blocks anyone he disagrees with.

          You don’t like open debate as far as I can see.

          • Geordiegiants

            Ha ha lol, I love it, good reply. 😂🤣

        • Geordiegiants

          Howare Leazes he’s got you there like 🤣😂

          • Leazes.

            I’m not a forum!

          • Geordiegiants

            Ha ha ha ha lol!!!! Your a belta you are Leazes a belta 👍

    • Milburn_Mag

      It would be interesting to ask some ‘awkward’ questions after the pre-minuted questions, under ‘Any Other Business – A.O.B.’ (asked just as it is assumed the meeting is about to wind up). The ‘official minutes could then be issued by the club, showing replies to the ‘official premeditated questions’, but the forum members would surely be within their rights to later issue a list of the ‘additional questions under A.O.B, which didn’t receive an official response? Yes/No?

      • Sickandtired

        The club banned NUST for releasing Fan’s Forum minutes, so I’d very much doubt they’d allow anything else to come out accept their own version.
        Could always take it up with Lee Marshall, the ‘Supporter Liaison Officer’ — but also Head of Marketing Communications! Yeah, I think not.

  • mactoon

    I’ve already had a question accepted to be asked at the forum. I want to know (in the absence of any official quote from Ashley) what is his asking price for the club. At least if that is answered and put into the public domain, any prospective buyers will know where they stand.

    • Kevin Christie

      Somehow I don’t think we’ll get a straight answer to that one but fingers crossed! ☺

      • mactoon

        Yup I’m not holding my breath either but it would be interesting to find out why he won’t give a price. Imagine trying to sell your house and being asked how much you wanted for it and replying “not telling you” !

        • mentalman

          its the same as all of the transfers these days being undisclosed

  • Cockneytrev

    This article has not changed my opinion of the fans forum,, this should be a debate , it’s not,
    if the big win for you is the closing of strawberry place,, god help us,,,
    I want to know why we have a manager who’s hands aren’t tired, because of lack off investment, I want to know why land behind the gallowgate was sold? Why land at the training ground was sold? Why we have had no development at the academy,
    If the owner has wanted to sell for 10 years why hasn’t he?
    but most of all I want to know”” where’s the money gone”
    Because there’s no visible signs of it, especially in the playing staff.

  • JohnnyH

    Now that we’ve got the parking sorted out in Strawberry Place, can you ask them to account for the £123 million TV money please?

    • Cockneytrev

      Yep,, couldn’t have put it better,,,

  • bob0411

    Sounds like merely a ‘tick in the box’ exercise for the club, as they’re obliged to run one. The forum members should be giving them a much harder time, stop being so bloody nice and grow a pair!

  • Superdooperhooper

    You could ask if the reports about nufc launching a cryptocurrency are true . And if so why nufc is in such dire financial straits that it needs to do it ? Also has ashley really ‘dropped’ the asking price to 300m? Obviously not expecting any straight answers but it would be interesting to hear what they would say

  • Geordiegiants

    The sheep want everyone to just sit quiet and do nothing, then when someone dares to raise their head above the parapet,they are shot down in flames for not just sitting and taking it up the backside like most of them.
    If you have a good idea, there is no point Jabbas never going to change.
    If you say your boycotting or giving up your ticket, there no point because everyone else isn’t.
    If you ask questions, they don’t agree with it’s a waste of time.
    Basically they want to go to the match decked out in all his gear, eat his food, drink his drink, and pay him fortunes for the privilege, sit and whinge their heads off and do nothing about it.
    Then when someone has the balls to get up and have a go and try something, they are shot down in flames.
    The sheep need a shepherd, without a leader these bunch spectators are literally lambs to the slaughter. Baaa baaaaa 🐑

    • Boycott the BBC

      Who’s the sheep?

      • Albert Stubbins


      • Geordiegiants

        Gallowgate Dave, Brian Standen and the likes of them. I don’t think that they are any less or more a supporter than anyone else, just they are sheep.

        • Brian Standen

          Now that’s a bit insulting we have conversed on this before. I’m open to support anything constructive.

          • Geordiegiants

            Brian I don’t think your a bad person or not a good supporter. Im just speaking the truth, you know and I know, if he is starved of money, then he will have to go, there is none, if any doubt on that issue by your own admission and others that still attend, ie Gollowgate Dave.
            Even though you know this, you say your going because your used to it, and it’s normal and been going on for years and everyone else goes so there is no point basically.
            How is that not sheep like behaviour, lambs to the slaughter etc?
            Or to put it without using an animal as an example.
            It’s your a follower not a leader, you go with the majority regardless of the consequences.

          • Brian Standen

            But that is where your wrong about me, I’m happy to support any pro active way of getting rid of him, I would be happy to print at my expense any A4 leaflets! I pay to be part of NUST, but I don’t have full faith in those who don’t go!
            Peoples financial position dictates where they shop if their kids want sports gear, I have no doubt that many who don’t go and protest outside SD for the cameras still actually shop there when it boils down to it- does that make them bad people? Not at all!

    • simonjames60

      I think you’re too blinkered to understand / empathise with the behaviour of anyone who disagrees with you.

      Having a different viewpoint to yours does not equate to being a sheep.

      by virtue of the fact that people think for themselves and don’t follow you that demonstrates free will and non-sheepness.

      To blindly follow the ideas of a barrack room layer without critical appraisal or independent thought would be the greatest demonstration of sheepness.

      • Geordiegiants

        Yeah!!! That’s a good way to put it, in in the minority and doing the exact opposite to the 52,000 sheep but I’m acting like a sheep????!! Give our man will you!

        • simonjames60

          Sorry. I didn’t make my post very clear.

          I was implying the people who followed your ideas blindly without questioning could also be considered sheep-like, not that you were.

          I acutely agree with you. My son and I cancelled our season tickets at the end of last year. We won’t return until the fat parasite either sells up or bursts

          • Geordiegiants

            Ah get what your saying, the thing is weather you a want to go to the match or not. The only way he will sell Newcastle is when he is not getting any money out of it.

  • Albert Stubbins

    [one simple question you could ask is Where has all the f in money gone? try asking that one because thats the question WE ALL want to know the answer to!!

    • Leazes.

      Okay…. think its gone to an account of the parent company MASH Holdings….which uses it to buy bits of high Street!

      Maybe the Premier League or Sky TV can confirm this?