We asked that question just before the end of last season. We set out our ideas about what a “community club” would look like:
a club that will work with supporters on fans issues like ticket prices, safe standing and subsidised away travel for example,
a club that will work with our MPs, the city council and local businesses to play its part in regenerating our area rather than simply billboarding a national sports retailer,
a club that will work with local football clubs and schools to develop local talent and keep that talent in the North East,
a club that says we can compete, we will compete, we don’t reward mediocrity, we strive for excellence and to be the best we can be in everything we do.
Since then Mr Ashley has appeared on Sky Sports to explain his ambitions for the club, a new coach has been appointed, a new “football board” has been created and more money has been spent than in any previous transfer window since he bought the club. The general feeling around the club seems more positive than for some time, despite results on the field so far not being good.
Managing Director Lee Charnley has said in an e-mail sent to some fans but not, as reported, to all season ticket holders:
“In recent years I know that some of you feel a divide has opened up between the club and the supporters. We accept responsibility for the things we have done, or not done, to contribute to this, but with Steve’s arrival and a new season ahead of us, we have been presented with a real opportunity to make progress as a club together. Often our mistake has been that we’ve not communicated well enough with you and I assure you going forward, this is something we will do better.”
This promised new approach does not extend to NUST who remain banned from the Fans Forum and have had no response to written requests by the Trust to meet with the club.
Over the summer the Trust has contacted others who are working towards buying a share in their football clubs, such as Leeds United who have prepared a detailed prospectus, and Hearts in the Scottish league, who are working with the current owner to gradually buy shares over a period of time so that ownership of the club will eventually be transferred to the supporters. We still believe that the future progress of NUFC will be best achieved through at least an element of fan ownership and participation.
We explained in May how we were exploring the best way to create a structure to allow fans to raise the money needed. A number of supporters who are interested in helping to take the idea forward in Newcastle got in touch. We have met with legal advisors who are specialists in launching public share offers, and a Toon fan working in London for a multi-national management consultancy firm is helping to develop an overall action plan and helping to identify other useful contacts who can help us.
We believe that Newcastle United could be run successfully and developed using its own income and resources. Even Mike Ashley’s own business model for the club has been to make it self sufficient without the need for injections of cash from outside the football club. The accounts support that and state their objective as;
“to achieve a sustainable financial position , able to operate without reliance on external bank debt or additional long term financial support from our owner and meet UEFA’s Financial Fair Play requirements”.
The two main income streams are from TV money and our fantastic support year after year. The third income stream is commercial income from marketing the Newcastle United brand. Compared to many other premier league clubs there is huge potential to improve on this at Newcastle.
In Lee Charnley’s “new chapter” boardroom changes were made. They don’t have a Director of Finance on the board so it would be interesting to know what level of decision making happens, but the changes have been made to demonstrate more football input at board level through Steve McClaren and Graham Carr. What a fantastic opportunity that was to include fan representation voluntarily even if the Government aren’t planning to regulate to make it happen. We will keep trying to engage with the club and hope that the “new chapter” will really lead to something better for fans. In the meantime we want to hear from fans who believe that they are able to help the Trust take forward a project that will put us in a position to play a bigger part in the running of the club. After all in an address to fans at the latter stage of last season even Lee Charnley admitted;
“We accept mistakes have been made and understand you raise these issues because you want the best for your football club”.
We know that at the moment we don’t have a willing seller, we don’t have the money or the expertise in place to buy a share in the club even if Mr. Ashley wanted to sell but we have a vision and we have ambition and we believe the fans of Newcastle United, whether you’re still going to games or not, have the power to bring about change. We must continue to plan to be ready to intervene when inevitably the club is again up for sale. We must be prepared with the money and the support to intervene and secure the future of the club in the community for generations to come, and not just sit back and let it sink into private ownership again. No football club was created by a businessman for profit. They all came from their local community, and we believe that the future of NUFC and football generally would be best secured if they were placed back in the community.
The first move is to demonstrate your interest by joining the Trust. If you are not already a member, go to the website and see how easy it is. We’ll keep members informed and we’ll consult with them as we develop a business plan and prospectus to raise the money we’ll need to act when Mike Ashley decides to move on. This is your chance to influence the future of our beloved club for the better- please join us to help bring this about.
Whose club is it? It’s our club.
Sponsors website www.phoenixtaxis.net