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Opinion

Mike Ashley sidelines official Newcastle United Fans Forum in favour of lip service groups – Shameful

1 week ago
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Mike Ashley has broken Premier League rules in recent years.

The NUFC owner refusing to honour the obligation for club officials to meet with fans on a regular basis.

The official Newcastle United Fans Forum has been a total joke.

The club selecting who takes part, instead of fans electing other fans to represent them.

Then when the Fans Forum meetings did take place, there was absolutely no goodwill shown in the club approach.

The club controlling the minutes that were produced (NUST saying that the ones from the last meeting weren’t a true record – plus the fans not able to insist on certain things being included in the minutes, only able to say yes/no to what the club put forward, a bit like Mike Ashley with Rafa on transfers, never mind with Steve Bruce who has zero say) and refusing to allow the fanbase to see the questions that were asked and the responses from Lee Charnley and others. Other clubs happy to have online streaming of their meetings with fans and/or videos released afterwards but Mike Ashley’s NUFC refusing to do so.

Newcastle United Fans Forum meetings were supposed to take place four times a year but they had been decreasing all of the time, ending up with only two in 2016, two in 2017 and two in 2018.

Indeed, there has been only two Newcastle United Fans Forum meetings in the past 29 months and none at all these past 14 months (last one in September 2018).

As usual, Mike Ashley and his minions treating Newcastle fans with contempt, especially those willing to give up their spare time to take part in the Fans Forum.

Now on Friday (29 November 2019) the club has made an official announcement (see below), stating that they are sidelining the Fans Forum (which we had kind of guessed these past 14 months) and are instead doing ‘Fan Focus Groups’ with supporters.

The bottom line is that this is just a sham.

Like everything else with Ashley’s NUFC, they spend more time and effort trying to make it look like they are doing something of value, rather than just doing it.

They say that these smaller Fan Focus Groups will fall into four ‘key areas’:  ‘Ticketing, Stadium & Matchday Experience, Community & Foundation and the club’s inclusion equality movement, United As One.’

In other words, the club decide the agenda and what they want to talk about, invite along a chosen group of random people (not elected by the wider fanbase), not able to ask the questions they really want to ask, then the club release a report afterwards that nobody is interested in but which ‘proves’ they are interacting with (paying lip service to) the fans.

With the NUFC Fans Forum the club made it as difficult as possible to ask questions, giving supporters no proper notice of when and how to do it, plus failing to provide and promote email addresses for all of the fans forum members so supporters can contact them.

This new charade is just embarrassing and sadly the media, especially the locals, will just repeat the club line without giving it any critical analysis/scrutiny. If challenged (the newspapers), you just know they would say something along the lines of ‘well we have to give it time blah blah blah’…

Mike Ashley and his shameless willing minions just want to make any fan interaction ‘safe’, where there is no risk of putting the NUFC owner in a bad light.

The bottom line is that instead what is needed is simply;

Fans put their names forward to be on a fans forum/committee, whatever you want to call it.

The fanbase (season ticket holders/members etc) then vote who they want to represent them.

Those elected representatives then meet club officials and are then allowed to ask any questions that they want to, within reason (related to NUFC and so on).

The meeting is then streamed and/or recorded on video, then everybody can see the questions asked and the answers.

To further sum up the shambles at Newcastle United and treating supporters with contempt.

All Premier League clubs are required to have at least one SLO (Supporter liaison officer).

The SLO standard definition in the UEFA Supporter Liaison Officer Handbook consists of five areas of responsibility:

To be a bridge and improve communication between the fans and the club.

To rely on information and credibility from both sides.

To inform supporters of club decisions and communicate the fan point of view to the club.

To build relations with fan groups and initiatives as well as with police and security.

To stay in touch with SLOs of club opponents.

Do Newcastle United have an SLO?

Well they might have given somebody the title to tick a box but I bet even if they have one, no more than one in a thousand Newcastle fans could name who he is.

As for carrying out the duties as detailed above by UEFA…I would put it at one in a million Newcastle fans who can show that all those things happen!

Newcastle United official announcement:

Newcastle United is introducing new Fan Focus Groups which will give supporters an opportunity to have their say on the club’s operations and future planning.

Part of a wider review of communications, the groups will partly replace the club’s existing Fans Forum, which was introduced in 2013, and will be dedicated to four key areas of the club’s operations – Ticketing, Stadium & Matchday Experience, Community & Foundation and the club’s inclusion equality movement, United As One.

Each of the four groups will have two meetings per season (eight Fan Focus Groups in total per season). They will be attended by the club’s relevant heads of department and may feature representatives from associated organisations.

Who can attend?

There are no strict rules about which supporters can attend – while spaces will be limited, anyone can ask to come along. Ahead of each meeting, supporters will need to register their interest via email and include the feedback and ideas that they would like to raise.

While each Fan Focus Group meeting will typically include around a dozen supporters, this can be flexible and fans will be able to register their interest for as many meetings as they like.

Where space is limited, relevant heads of department will review the emails received. Supporters will then be asked to attend and give their feedback in person, or items will be raised on their behalf and feedback will be offered.

All groups previously involved in the Fans Forum, including Newcastle United Supporters Trust (NUST) and Newcastle United Disabled Supporters Association (NUDSA) will also be welcome to send a representative.

The club will also be continuing to work with groups including United With Pride and anti-discrimination organisations and they will be encouraged to contribute to United As One meetings.

‘You said, we did…’

We want to make it easy for fans to follow what their fellow supporters have raised and how the club is responding.

Once meetings have taken place, feedback will be captured in an online Action Tracker, which will detail the issue raised, the club’s response and if the matter is on-going or concluded.

Club channels will also be utilised to update supporters about major developments.

Fan Focus Group dates

Meetings will begin at St. James’ Park in December, with two meetings taking place for each of the four Fan Focus Groups per season.

The first meetings will be as follows:

United As One – 6:30pm, 10th December 2019

Stadium & Matchday Experience – 6:30pm, 11th December 2019

Community & Foundation – 6:30pm, 16th December 2019

Ticketing – 6:30pm, 17th December 2019

The second round of meetings will be in March and April 2020.

How to get involved

If you would like to register an interest in attending any of the club’s Fan Focus Groups, please send an introductory email to the relevant address listed below with the subject ‘Fan Focus Groups’.

Tell us about yourself and your experiences as a fan, why your preferred group is important to you and perhaps share your ideas on the club’s operations in your area of interest.

Ticketing – [email protected]

Stadium & Matchday Experience – [email protected]

Community & Foundation – [email protected]

United As One – [email protected]

Supporter groups

In addition to wider communication through club channels and the media, the club’s managing director, Lee Charnley, has made a commitment to meeting the chairperson of existing democratically elected supporter groups including Newcastle United Supporters Trust (NUST) and Newcastle United Disabled Supporters Association (NUDSA) during the season.

These meetings will be an opportunity to listen to independent feedback and work together for the benefit of Newcastle United and its supporters.

Informal in nature, these meetings will not be formally captured in meeting minutes as the Fans Forum has been, but may conclude with a mutually agreed communication where appropriate.

Junior Fans Forum

Newcastle United is looking to introduce its first ever Junior Fans Forum, which will give young supporters the chance to interact and share their views and ideas.

The club is currently exploring options and details will follow at nufc.co.uk.

Club communications

The club is supporting its fan engagement efforts with a fresh commitment to wider supporter communication, building on recent national and local media interviews with the club’s owner, managing director, head coach, players and staff, as well as matchday programme notes.

Going forward, fans will hear more from across the club through both the wider media and the club’s own channels, including the club’s website, NUFC TV, social media accounts and by direct email.

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