The official Newcastle United Fans Forum has given us a small window into the workings of the Mike Ashley regime over recent years.
Not that we ever find out anything useful through it, or if we do, it is usually by accident.
More so it is the way that Ashley and his people put so much effort into spinning it, that is the really interesting thing.
Like a lot of the things that go on at the club under this owner, you end up taking things as the norm because they have gone on so long, people lost track of what should happen – as it does at normal football clubs and in the rest of society and other organisations
The Newcastle United Fans Forum is just bizarre.
It is no big deal elsewhere, supporters going along and asking questions of the people who run their club, giving them feedback, especially ideas on how to improve certain aspects of the way their particular club is run.
It isn’t rocket science and many clubs now stream live their fans forum or make it available for viewing via video footage later. Alternatively, they quickly produce a full and frank report of their meetings, covering the areas of particular interest to the wider fanbase.
At Newcastle United, it has become a real political football, everything so cloak and dagger with the poor unfortunates who have volunteered to take part, caught in a no man’s land between a club who are showing them zero respect appreciations & clearly just using them and fans on the outside, many of who have various levels of unrealistic expectations as to what NUFC Fans Forum members can realistically deliver.
One of my mates is currently a member (and regretting it!) of the Newcastle United Fans Forum and I know another member reasonably well. I contacted them both earlier today and by lunchtime on Tuesday (2 October 2018) they still hadn’t received the draft minutes from the last meeting.
That meeting was eight days ago on Monday 24 September 2018.
Draft minutes are sent by the club to the Newcastle fans (and club officials presumably) who were at the meeting and then they send back any comments, pointing out any inaccuracies etc, then the final minutes are published so everybody can see.
In all my working life, and social, I have never known anything like what happens with NUFC and these minutes.
Just to check what the norm is for what happens with minutes from a meeting, I looked to see what was typically included in minutes of any meeting and what the usual procedure is.
These seem to be what most sources agree to be the norm:
‘Minutes, also known as minutes of meeting (abbreviation MoM), protocols or, informally, notes, are the instant written record of a meeting or hearing. They typically describe the events of the meeting and may include a list of attendees, a statement of the issues considered by the participants, and related responses or decisions for the issues.’
‘Distribute meeting minutes promptly. Prepare minutes of a meeting soon after it ends so that attendees receive them within 24 hours. Hold them accountable for reviewing the record of proceedings and alerting you to any corrections or modifications immediately.’
As has been my experience of meetings in my work/social life, the draft minutes are sent out ASAP, almost always within 24 hours. People have got plenty else going on in their lives so of course you need to have the meeting fresh in your mind as to remember what was and wasn’t discussed/decided.
As for what to include, it isn’t difficult, just a factual replay of what went on – who was there, what was discussed, what was decided, any comments of particular note, and just generally anything and everything deemed of importance by those taking part.
Why should the Newcastle United Fans Forum be any different? I wouldn’t care, but compared to many other meetings in other arenas, fans talking to a football club isn’t even marginally important, especially of course when the club doesn’t treat those giving up their time with any respect.
Somebody at the Fans Forum is obviously taking notes as the meeting goes on, so no reason at all why those notes can’t be quickly turned into the draft minutes. Certainly they should be put together and sent out by the next day, or in reality, this could even be done before the fans forum members even make it home.
After all, it is just a factual record of what went on, isn’t it?
Well of course not, instead of just honestly and openly letting everybody know what was discussed and said, what we do get is clearly some kind of process whereby those working for Mike Ashley then decide what they want to be included in, and left out of, the minutes, and how it is all going to be represented.
This is how small-time our club is, so much effort to avoid awkward questions and issues being put into the public domain.
The club don’t of course have to answer any particular question, maybe they have a valid reason for not answering certain ones.
However, the NUFC fanbase should be able to know anything and everything of importance that was asked and discussed.
Newcastle United Fans Forum members should be able to ask that anything they deem important should be minuted and included in the official public minutes, if the majority of those present at the meeting agree.
For example, the club might not be willing to answer questions such as the following BUT we should be told if they were asked AND that the club refused/declined to give an answer:
What role has Justin Barnes got at Newcastle United?
If you buy something from the official NUFC online shop, how much of that money goes to the club and how much to Sports Direct?
Mike Ashley promised Rafa Benitez ‘every penny’ to spend in the transfer market, how can that be squared with a significant net surplus on transfers in and out this summer?
What justification is there for season ticket price rises at a time when the vast majority of clubs are keeping theirs the same AND at a time when Newcastle are having less than zero net spend in the transfer market?
Why do Newcastle United not have a proper functioning board, instead of Lee Charnley being the only named director?
The way that Mike Ashley and his minions control the Newcastle United Fans Forum, simply confirms to supporters that there is so much that they want to keep hidden away.
Why they are so frightened of being seen to be asked awkward questions and then refusing to answer them.
This is also why Lee Charnley is never allowed to give open interviews to the media where they can ask him whatever they want, the same of course with those that Mike Ashley really has running the show for him, such as Justin Barnes, who will never be allowed to be quizzed on goings on at Newcastle United.
The club even refused to let the Fans Forum meet throughout the whole of last season, until the team were finally safe from relegation, to avoid awkward questions regarding Mike Ashley and the treatment of Rafa Benitez, the forum meeting in June 2017 and then not again until April 2018.
The whole club is just a sham and always will be until finally we see the back of Mike Ashley.
I would never criticise any supporters for getting involved in the Newcastle United Fans Forum but Mike Ashley and his minions are clearly playing them for fools, just like they are the many tens of thousands of us who simply want to be proud of our club.