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Opinion

Liverpool expose shameless Mike Ashley PR manipulation of Newcastle United Fans

5 months ago
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Liverpool have frozen season ticket prices for the fourth successive year in a row.

This is Liverpool who have just won the Champions League this month.

A Liverpool team who in all but one other season in Premier League history, would have won the title with their points total in 2018/19.

This is a club who have spent over £320m in the past two seasons and three years ago completed a major stadium expansion taking the capacity to over 54,000, with plans to extend beyond 60,000 in the future.

I found out about Liverpool freezing season ticket prices for a fourth year in a row from an excellent article on The Mag this week.

After Mike Ashley raised Newcastle United season ticket prices for a third year in a row last week, The Mag writer tracked down information on the other 19 Premier League clubs (see that article HERE).

Three clubs there wasn’t clear info on what had happened with season ticket prices between 2017/18 and 2018/19 but of the other 16, 12 of them had frozen prices this summer and indeed most had frozen prices for a number of years.

The Liverpool one particularly took my eye and the write up linked to this Liverpool Echo report:

‘Decision follows lengthy discussions between club officials and supporters through the regular fans forums

Liverpool FC have frozen ticket prices for the 2019/2020 season.

It is the fourth successive year that all season ticket and general admission seats for matches at Anfield have been kept at the same level.

The announcement follows lengthy discussions between club officials and supporters through the regular fans forums.

Liverpool will continue to offer £9 general admission seats to local fans for every Premier League, European and domestic cup home games with an allocation of more than 10,000 tickets across the 2019/2020 campaign.

The Reds will also support schools in the Anfield area by providing 1,000 free tickets for local children to attend Premier League games throughout the season.’

Incredible.

Fancy having a ridiculous way of doing things, that involves a Premier League club positive working with fans and having serious regular meetings with group(s) of supporters, where the fans are treated with respect and the whole idea of the meetings is for everybody to pull together and try to bring success.

Massive success on the pitch, spending big on players, stadium expansion, keeping prices frozen four years in a row…by some amazing coincidence could working respectfully with the supporters have helped make all this happen???

Now we come to Mike Ashley and how he treats supporters.

The official Newcastle United Fans Forum is a shambles.

Not in terms of the Newcastle supporters who give up their time to try and improve the lot of the fanbase overall.

Rather, it is the sheer lack of goodwill that the football club approaches the whole thing with.

Instead of honest and transparent interaction with the fans, it is simply used to try and put out the Mike Ashley PR message, that is of course when it actually meets…

The Premier League rules say that clubs should regularly interact with their supporters.

The Newcastle United Fans Forum is supposedly how our club satisfies that requirement.

An official Premier League document laid out in September 2017 what each of the 20 PL clubs were doing in terms of interaction with their fans. No doubt this information was supplied by each of the clubs.

This is what the NUFC listing said:

‘Newcastle United

Fans Forum

The Forum meet quarterly and includes 16 fan representatives, most of whom are randomly drawn
from applicants who meet the criteria for each category.

Four groups have permanent representation on the Forum, including the Supporters Trust and the Disabled Supporters Association.

The club are represented by the Managing Director, Head of Marketing & Communications and other senior staff members.’

Since that September 2017 announcement/document from the Premier League, these are the dates when the Newcastle United Fans Forum have met:

25 April 2018

24 September 2018

That is it.

Indeed that is the sum total of meetings since 29 June 2017 and from what I have been told.

So in two seasons/years there have been two meetings, rather than the eight quarterly meetings that the Premier League understood would happen. The claims of meeting quarterly are about as believable as Rafa Benitez getting ‘every penny’ to spend on the squad.

The club have regularly postponed/cancelled meetings, sometimes with very little notice.

So at the moment it has become a yearly meeting, once a season getting the chance to meet club officials.

The club is in absolute chaos at the minute with no players bought, no manager in place for next season and claims of a club takeover shrouded in mystery, and there hasn’t been a Newcastle United Fans Forum meeting for nine months. The last time one was held, the NUFC team were still six weeks away from winning their first game of the season.

I am told that club officials did invite Newcastle United Fans Forum members to come and see them last month but it was only to discuss how they should have meetings in the future.

I understand the club are pushing to do away with the meetings with all Fan Forum members (none of who are elected by other supporters) and instead have meetings where they meet a few of them at a time to talk about specific subjects.

What a laugh. On the rare occasions they bother even having a meeting as it stands, the club set the agenda and then control the minutes afterwards. To further divide and rule and isolate fans forum members into even smaller groups, is simply more manipulation to increase their blatant use of the process for Mike Ashley’s PR purposes.

Transparency is a dirty word for Mike Ashley and his minions.

All that needs to happen is to have the meetings regularly (at least four times a year) as they originally promised, make it clear to fans how they can put forward questions, then the forum members to ask those questions, with the meetings streamed and/or on video so that all Newcastle fans can see the questions being asked and the answers supplied.

Other Premier League clubs already do this when meeting fans on a regular basis, why can’t Mike Ashley and Newcastle United.

You would almost think he had something to hide…

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