Firstly, the Newcastle United Supporters Trust’s application to the City Council, under the Localism Act, to have St James’ Park registered as an Asset of Community Value was endorsed by the City Council. Newcastle United now has eight weeks to raise any objections to the registration but it would be highly unusual if they did given neither Manchester United nor Liverpool raised any objection as I understand it. Nor has any other club. Though, granted this is Mike Ashley and if the Glorious Leader can put the block on complimentary match tickets for players and staff as well as stop providing a few sandwiches and a half time cup of tea for the press box, then all bets are off obviously. As has been mentioned previously, the Newcastle United Supporters Trust’s application is entirely symbolic. But what it does do is register in the public mind and with some legislative backing that St James’ Park is more than a shed where business is done. I would expect similar registrations to be undertaken for other community assets such as the Theatre Royal, Tyneside Cinema, the city’s beautiful parks and other well-loved and iconic buildings and facilities. Although this does not give us as supporters any formal hold over St James’ Park, it does establish an important legal principle. That should not be sniffed at. It is a good achievement and should be recognised as such.
In possibly the biggest move ever to reform football governance, Friday’s announcement of a substantial Manifesto commitment from the Labour Party to ensure some ownership of football clubs is passed over to registered Supporters Trusts at every Football League and Premier League as well as placing at least two representatives on the football club board should be welcomed by every supporter in the country.
I am not so naïve as to presume that the election of a Labour Government and an implementation of what is being outlined in their news release will be a panacea for all that is wrong at Newcastle United and all of the ills of the game more generally but it is a massive step forward. The auto-response of some fans, who are maybe impatient or cynical will be to shit all over this piece of good news is obvious but it should be avoided. The Premier League and club owners as well as their friends in the media will do everything they can to scupper any change in the status quo. We all know well-resourced and funded lobbyists will be sent to turn the heads of politicians but we should all be completely united in our support for Labour’s plans and do our utmost to fight tooth and nail for these modest improvements.
We have a properly constituted Supporters Trust at United. It is absolutely and completely compliant with the national body, Supporters Direct. It could not be more bona fide if it tried. It is well established on the national scene. In some areas, for example in its political strategy, events have demonstrated, it is way ahead of most other Trusts across the country.
The Newcastle United Supporters Trust has been established for a good number of years now and whatever anyone’s thoughts on what it should or shouldn’t be doing, now is the time to set that all aside and support it. As a starter for ten, supporters should become Trust members and help build its credibility and financial strength. Supporters should become actively engaged with it in terms of its public meetings, its AGMs and the other public meetings it holds. Where there are elections, those who are so moved and who really have something positive to offer, some professionalism and expertise to bring to the table, should stand for board membership and put themselves up for election.
I’m currently a board member myself, I’d like to think I offer something in terms of my own qualities but I am sure there are people out there reading this and who are devoted supporters who could knock whatever I do into a cocked hat. If those people come along at some future point, I’m sure I would not be the only one to make way for them. This isn’t a vanity project. It is for the greater good of Newcastle United FC. But who-ever is on the Trust board or at some point is a Supporters Trust representative on the Newcastle United FC board of directors, then it will be Trust members who will have elected them. They won’t have been hand-picked by anybody working for United for any flaky, tokenist Fans Forum which I’m yet to see achieve anything other than a big dog turd for Lee Charnley to go marching through with his imprudent comments. Nor will they be a forelock tugging recipient of club patronage. They will be proper representatives and if we vote in divs or geniuses that will be our responsibility but we will have the option to bin them as well. There will have to be transparency and accountability.
As I’m a sad old bore who thinks about this stuff a lot, I know there are misconceptions about what a Trust might do. Take for example Portsmouth FC. That club has been in the hands of it’s own Supporters Trust for a short time now. Portsmouth still has an executive team running the club, still has employed people doing all of the jobs at any other club but the key difference is they work for the club and are accountable to the supporters via the Trust. Now, I’m not going to claim Labour’s plans will give us what they have at Pompey or even what they have at Swansea but this is setting the direction of travel, this is the road we can travel down together – if we work hard enough to make it happen.
As ever, the devil is in the detail and we won’t really know the detail until the people who write the law to go through the parliamentary machine start doing it. If Labour is elected, this small space on the internet is going to be alive with talk of Green papers, First and Second Readings, White papers, Royal Assent and the whole schmutter of parliamentary lingo. Oh, it’s going to be a right laugh!
Mike Ashley is not the cause of football’s ills. He is a symptom of them. He is a symptom of an dysfunctional governance within football which at the highest levels is run by a random selection of billionaires and millionaires at Premier League clubs and bungling, self-interested amateurs at the FA. People like Ashley and others can get away with what they do because you and I are utterly powerless to prevent them. I met the PL Chief Executive Richard Scudamore myself, I’ve asked him questions and heard the answers. I can assure you he does not give a toss about supporters. He exists, as he said himself as a “representative of a trade body”. He and the people who work close to him have no interest in our community and its alienation from Newcastle United. He has little power to do anything about it himself. If he was ever minded to do anything! He is happy with the status quo, which simply involves him helping owners make more money for themselves. That is it.
There is an alternative for football clubs and Newcastle United. It isn’t Marxist day-dreaming. The model is 12 miles down the road at Durham CCC – the North East’s most successful sports club by a proverbial street. Owned and accountable to members. Progressive and dedicated to the success of Durham CCC and the development of players as well as cricket in the NE. I know Durham CCC isn’t perfect but it is a lot less imperfect than how the likes of Newcastle United is run.
Across Europe there are examples of better models for how clubs are run – in Spain, with our old friends Athletic Bilbao and how they develop and nurture talent as well as the Bundesliga – the league which I predict will be bigger than the Premier League in every regard within five years.
Not that we have to copy what others do. We can have our own vision of what Newcastle United should be about but centred around two key principles – sporting excellence and community engagement on a level unrecognisable to what has ever been achieved before.
I know, I know, I’m getting carried away. We have a long, long way to go but Friday’s commitment from Labour (and I don’t expect the Tories to allow themselves to be outflanked on this issue and will be interested to hear what they have to offer) points the way many of us want to go.
This could be the first step to fixing football and who knows possibly even perma-basket case Newcastle United. No-one should be found wanting when it comes to fighting to get this toe-hold.
Join the Newcastle United Supporters Trust here.
Apologies for the photo but you can read the NUST’s take on the Labour Party’s Manifesto commitment here
Well, United got their first win of the season racked up after a turgid performance against pretty dire opposition and a farce with the i-pad that has been clagged onto the side of the Leazes End. I think that was one of the poorest starting elevens we have had at United in well over twenty years and I’m pretty certain the team that was promoted from The Championship in 2010 was a stronger side the one we are currently watching. I’m going to make a guess and say it is getting less money in salary. There are holes all over the pitch and the scruffy 1-0 win doesn’t convince me of anything I didn’t believe last week and that is Alan Pardew does not have the qualities to manage Newcastle United. He has the job for his ability to have his belly rubbed by Mike Ashley and go along with his strategy for United – survival only and maximum exposure for his businesses while players are bought to generate a profit rather than build a team. It remains a Zombie club and it will face a fight against relegation this season for the simple reason of a grotesque lack of investment and lack of ambition.
Who is looking forward to anything other than a cuffing at Tottenham?
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I think it’s fair to say we have really upped our game with our weekly newsletter, the true faith : SATURDAY SPECIAL. The Special comes out every Saturday morning (no prizes for guessing that, like) and we have expanded the reading team from young Mr Harrison, our redoubtable Deputy Editor as well as regular and esteemed writers from our regular tf talent: Alex Hurst, Huy-Hannay-Wilson, Mark Brophy and me occasionally.
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Have a great week.
Keep On, Keepin’ On …
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