by • October 7, 2013 • NewsComments (17)1782

TF:  First things first, why do you want supporters to join a protest march http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photography-community-walk-run-marching-marathon-pictograms-image29251042before the Liverpool game?

T4C: We have felt the utter frustration, like many other fans, at the way the club has been run by Mike Ashley. Some of the complaints have been well-rehearsed: The sacking of managers, the changing of the stadium’s name, the Wonga deal, and the puzzling re-appointment of Joe Kinnear as director of football.

What is of real concern to us now is that repeated club statements appear to suggest that it lacks direction, ambition and is failing loyal fans who have put so much time, loyalty and money into supporting the team. The club has been through bad times before, but since finishing in fifth place, the club has revised and budgeted it’s targets down for two consecutive seasons. At the same time it has said it regards cup competitions not as a priority, but as a chance to run the rule over our very small squad of reserves.

We contend that something fundamental has changed, and that the club has now admitted it has little intent to attempt competitive football. The potential of the club not only remains untapped but maybe diminishing as the club identity and brand has been consumed by Mr Ashley’s pursuit of his other ‘main’ business interest.

Time4Change believes that something needs to be done, to say ‘enough is enough’. A meeting was called through certain social network groups and it was democratically decided that a lawful, properly organised march would be a start.

We have been granted permission for this by the police and city council.

We hope this will give the opportunity for all fans and supporters groups to unite and express their concerns at current policies and showcase our solidarity and shared hopes for a better future.

The Liverpool fixture was chosen for several reasons. Firstly, it has significance as being a high profile game which in the past has created some terrific football matches. Not too long ago it would have been regarded as a game between equals. Last season saw us capitulate in a way that shocked many fans.

Liverpool is also a good example, via the Spirit of Shankly group, of what can be achieved when fans get together to pursue a peaceful campaign for change. We have been in contact with SoS and have developed a relationship. They have sent us messages of support. In this spirit of “football first”, we have invited Liverpool fans to join the march. The game will also be shown live on BT Sport and it will generate inevitable media interest.

This is a chance, right at the outset of our campaign, for everyone who has pride in the club, the city, and the region, to show what Newcastle United means to us all.

Is there a better way of showcasing how much we care and crave ambition by marching peacably together, then showing our support by backing our team 100%?

TF: What do you think a protest march will achieve?

T4C: We are not naive enough to think that one march will suddenly make Ashley pack up and sell up. The march however can be very significant symbolically, especially if it manages to unite the fans. Just as it has on a small scale during the organisation of this march, it’s a wonderful way of bringing people who had not previously met, together, and realising that we share so many things in common and can gain strength in unity.

If Ashley has been successful in anything during his reign it has been his unerring ability to divide and conquer the supporters; be it the fragmentation of the singing section in Level 7 that led to tensions elsewhere in the ground with other fans, or his ability to create amateur accountants out of passionate football fans. Ashley has even used his cronies to conduct character defamation campaigns against legends Kevin Keegan and Alan Shearer. We wonder how Sir Bobby Robson would have fared if he was alive today, for there is no doubt in our minds he would have spoken out against the club’s so called ‘plan’.

This is why we hope the march can re-invigorate the whole campaign for change in the running of the club so that the fans and the city can be reconnected with it’s heart. We feel this is the first time in almost 5 years that the need to do ‘something’ is overwhelming and we hope the march can channel the frustration and anger felt by fans and convert it into a positive movement for change.

TF: What are the arrangements for the protest march?

T4C: The march is legal and sanctioned by the council and the police. It has been organised and paid for by individual donations and groups giving up their time to ensure every interested fan has the opportunity to exercise their democratic right to march. There are no ulterior motives other than to make the owner and the football world aware that not all Newcastle fans are content in doing nothing.

The gathering point for the march will be on the pedestrianised part of Northumberland Road (next to the City Hall) from 1030am on 19th October and will proceed through the city centre, past the ground, and end at the bandstand in Leazes Park where there will be one or two short speeches before dispersal for the match.

The march has had a full health and safety check, will be accompanied by volunteer stewards and match-day policemen with rolling road closures as it progresses.

Certain groups are getting their own banners made and anyone wanting to bring their own are welcome; all we ask is you keep the slogans non abusive. There is plenty of scope for fans to quote back the regime’s lies and failures without being offensive. If you’re bringing bed-sheets, we ask that you put them through a spellcheck 😉

Remember, this isn’t a march aimed at hurling abuse at the owner – that will achieve little and won’t look great in front of the watching media. What we want is a good humoured protest march attended by caring, sensible fans who want to express their hope in a brighter future. We not only want to call time on the Ashley regime but make it known to the wider football world that we want responsible ownership where the fan-base can be respected and consulted. We can only do that by behaving responsibly and by policing ourselves so that others can see we are worth investing in.

TF: How many supporters do you predict will join the march?

T4C: That’s a question we can’t answer! What we can say is that a couple of dozen people, who run websites and social network groups have provided the opportunity for Newcastle fans to show that they care about the club. If you are a season ticket holder who feels helpless or a boycotter who feels disenfranchised, we want you to march in the belief that you can assert your self-respect and pride alongside others. We want this march to be inclusive, encompassing many parts of the NUFC demographic.

There has been press coverage since the papers got wind of possible fans’ action weeks ago, so there’s no doubt they’ll be there. What we hope is that the march is well attended so that they know there is a groundswell of opinion that says fans are willing to get involved in shaping the future of the club.

We can understand people being skeptical about the march and this is as much a symptom of the way Ashley has reduced us down into infighting, as it is to those anonymous people who want to denigrate people in 140 characters via twitter.

In the past, what we have needed most and lacked the most, is faith in ourselves. It’s a simple choice really, if you’re happy with the way the club is being run, managed and funded then stay at home and don’t march; if you are not happy, show you want better and march.

TF: Every time I look, there seems to be a new supporters group being formed (mainly online), tell us about TIME 4 CHANGE – what does it want to achieve? 

T4C: Indeed, there are many supporters groups out there, but we are NOT a new group as such. We stress that we are a coalition of some of the more established one’s over the last few years and as such, will remain independent and do our own things which range from humorous, irreverent looks on the club, to giving match reports and player news to being one issue pressure groups.

As we have stated, the ownership issue is the one issue that unites us all in calling for fan solidarity in a Time4Change. Amongst the groups, it is generally felt that there already exists the framework for postive change at NUFC, via the work the Supporters Trust has pursued since its inception (several trust members are involved in T4C). However, for whatever reason, a lot of this work goes unreported and because of this, their campaign has arguably lost momentum and drifted from the public eye. We hope that the #Time4Change March and any possible movement that grows from it can help reinvigorate and put to the very top of the agenda, the common goals many of us share not only with the Trust, but with football fans in general. It is with this in mind that the Trust have been invited to speak at the end of the march.

In short, if the Time4Change coalition can grow and unite as many groups as possible then it can be a movement which works in tandem with the Trust. If their membership swells because of a multi-pronged approach to affecting change then the long-term goals of us all – at the very least, responsible and accountable ownership – can become nearer reality.

TF: Who are the organisers behind TIME 4 CHANGE? What support do you have?

T4C: In some ways we have answered part of this question in the previous one.

There are no people with any professional or commercial interests in Newcastle United involved in Time4Change, nor are there any people with ‘media profiles’.

This is in effect, an attempt by concerned fans at a grassroots level to provide the opportunity for other fans who are extremely concerned by the club’s direction to come forward and march in solidarity and hope. To this point there have been no open mass meetings and therefore we aren’t imposing upon fans a full agenda of protest as we don’t have the mandate to do so.

As we are a coalition of groups, we all have a different amount of people who ‘follow’ our groups via the social networks and as we have progressed others have come forward and offered their support. Significantly, The Newcastle United Supporters Trust has offered their support and agreed to circulate details of the march to their mailing list and totally understand why this is taking place. We are gaining endorsements; but what we need is for the fans to turn up on the day to show we all really care about the club and want to see it progress.

TF: Some supporters are wary of joining protest movements because previous supporters’ protests have been perceived as being poorly organised and embarrassing. How will TIME 4 CHANGE be different?

T4C: This protest is properly organised and we have faith in the fans who attend to conduct themselves in the right manner. We appeal to all fans to come forward and march to ensure that it is successful.

The only previous mass supporters protests we can recall in recent times were in the aftermath of the Keegan resignation in 2008 at the Hull City game, when quite understandably, there was much vitriolic anger. But most of these were NOT officially sanctioned. This created a somewhat toxic atmosphere outside and inside the ground that day.

We think the climate is different to 2008. What we want is a successful, incident free march and then everyone who is attending the match to go inside and make it one of the best atmospheres worthy of a top fixture. We have given guarantees to the police that we will not organise or call for any protest that will contravene the stadium rules or break the law.

However, we do want to make a point in front of the cameras and the watching millions. With this in mind we are calling for fans to take to the match white handkerchiefs (even serviettes/paper will do) and upon the teams entering the pitch prior to the kick off, waving them in the air to signal that we are ‘calling time’ on the Ashley Regime. This as you know, is a simple form of protest usually practiced on the continent to signal fans disapproval. After that is done, we want everyone to back the team all the way.

This simple form of visual protest will be reliant on many people, whom for whatever reason, did not make the march, but gives everyone the opportunity to show they too think it is time for change.

This ‘white hankie’ protest would show the TV audience that the fans do have a valid voice and opinion but also that they refuse to turn their backs on the team. It is this passion and untapped potential that we hope one day will appeal to more responsible and receptive investors. This is something that could grow and carry on into further games, home and away. It costs virtually nothing but is symbolically and visually significant.
TF: What happens after the march?

T4C: Many people say ‘be careful what you wish for’ – ironically it was something Freddie Shepherd said when Ashley first sniffed round the club, but we should not be afraid of the future! To ensure that we get responsible and cooperative ownership in the future, we believe that fans have to be organised and have a coherent voice.

The March can be but a starting point in getting people together again, but let’s not forget there is a framework already in place, ready to be built upon.

We can’t make too many bold predictions as to where T4C goes from here, because in reality it depends on those who actually come forward and are willing to be proactive. There are all sorts of possibilities that could spring from this, but certainly within the group of people who have organised the march, there is a hope that this can be the start of a concerted coordinated campaign to put fan power and regime change on the agenda.

We have faith that we have provided, via the march, a sensible alternative for fans to show that we have had enough of being taken for granted and exploited.

We hope the readers will join the march on October 19th and show that we not only deserve, but demand, our voices to be heard. It’s Time4Change at NUFC. United we can do it!

Signed, Chris McQuillan, Duncan James, Brian Hall and Graeme Cansdale (on behalf of #Time4Change)

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17 Responses to TIME 4 CHANGE – PROTEST MARCH!

  1. Matt Flynn says:

    There can’t be many supporters out there who Mr Ashley hasn’t pissed off over the last five years, who haven’t been enraged by his lack of respect for our club, who haven’t called for action. Finally somebody has stuck their neck out and come up with a properly organised vehicle for the support to make their voice heard. The owner won’t listen but that’s not the point. For too long we’ve done nothing but whinge on the Internet, stood back and expected others to do something on our behalf. Well here’s a chance to stop passing the buck.

    There’s a saying we all know about what happens when good men do nothing, and this is the opportunity to do something. If nothing else a well supported march will prove to ourselves that we can get our act together. It won’t change the world overnight but it could be the starting point for a creating a support that can act in a coherent manner when the club needs it.

    Your club needs you. Support the march.

    • Exactly Matt – well said. I am an older fan (been goung to SJP since 1965) I’m on the fb page of several of these supporter groups & have regularily posted & shown my frustration & , I guess because I’ve dovetailed in with their thinking, was privileged to be invited to come on board the #Time4Change meetings – I have to say it’s been a refreshingly democratic experience & all issues taken seriously from all the groups involved . Progressive meetings have come to more satisfactory conclusions. The results are that the aims & objectives will appeal to all of us ‘ordinary’ fans as they’ve been looked at in a considered & educated way

  2. Mick Dixon says:

    Well done.
    A good sensible report and I hope its backed to the hilt. Ill be there.
    I wonder tho if any will be wearing the W*NGA shirt on the march?
    All I would say if you are protesting against the Ashley setup then back it up with a boycott of all his tat. Yes that includes the food/ale in the ground.
    Actions speak louder than words.


  3. Matt Smith says:

    About time people stood up to be counted, but why are we only hearing this side of things now? I’ve read article after article rubbishing this march but nothing untill now about why it is taking place and how well organised it is.

    Ashley is ruining the club and the good will of the supporters. The man needs to be told that he cannot get away with it any longer. So many people seem to be sitting back and letting it happen and saying “what can we do”??? Well this is something you can do!!!!!!!

    Well done everyone involved in organising this march! Get out there an join them!

  4. Alex Hurst says:

    The sacking of managers? Is this really an issue?

    I agree about the general lack of ambition of the club and I don’t think those who say ‘look at Leeds/Pormpey’ etc have a vaild argument as we should be able to expect that the club is run properly and with ambition, for me the two arguments cancel each other out and the fact that the club are happy finishing 12th is a major issue – plus the millions Ashley plans to take from United, in secret if he can.

    However, from a personal perspective reading that the march is occuring because of the sacking of managers (Ashley has sacked two managers – correctly in my opinion) turns me against it, at least behave with ambivalence as rightly or wrongly the march will be transmitted as the desire of most of Newcastle United fans and many of your reasons will be alien to many Mags – certainly most i know.

    I have no problem with the club admitting the cup competitions aren’t a priority. Almost every single other Premier League club is the same. It was the same under SBR – playing an understrength team at home or away in the early rounds and putting out a stronger team if we progress. I have faith we’ll put a strong team out against City and a full strength team thereafter, or close to that.

    Also I don’t believe Liverpool is a significant fixture as not so long ago was a close game. In the mid nighties maybe and briefly under SBR, but that was nearly 10 years ago before Champions League money greatened the distance between the elite few and everyone else. Yes last seasons game was horriffic but I blame the players and management team for that. The team that played that day had more than enough talent to avoid what happened. Obviously you had to pick a game to do the march but reading that makes me feel that some of your key points are schewed towards the agenda against Ashley and lack legitimacy.

    An example of this would be Ashley’s disbandment of Lv7 and turning fans on each other. This is total fantasy I’m afraid. I was moved from Lv 7 and now I have to sit down in the Corner and have recieved letters threatening to be ejected for persistent standing since – but it was under Ashley’s regime it was introduced and there was several safety issues around Lv7 but I don’t believe for a second it was disbanded to turn Mags against each other or to expand the family section.

    I don’t mean to sound negative nor do I hold any grudge to anyone marching towards the same goal I have and that of many other supporters; to see Newcastle United run properly and with ambition which can realise the potential of the club – but reading this I fear creating reasons for the March’s are reasons that, in my opinion, are invalid affect the legitmacy of any other protest against the club.

    Whether another protest is likely to happen, and it’s success – is another question.

    • Matt Flynn says:

      Trouble between fans in the strawberry corner after the singing section debunked there is not total fantasy. I saw one L7 exile given a pummelling for standing up all the time and blocking the view of some long time season ticket holders in the SE corner. There was no end of bother. Kids blocking the view of OAPS, mouthing off about being proper supporters. Generally showing no respect at all to other supporters.

      Supporters have four options.

      They can be happy with the way Ashley is running the club.
      They can be unhappy with the way Ashley is running the club and do nothing.
      They can be unhappy about the way Ashely is running the club and do something.
      They can be unhappy about the the way Ashley is running the club and stop going.

      After 30 years I opted for option four because the club I started supporting has ceased to exist. There’s no identity, no unity, no pride in what the club used to be. I for one don’t understand what it is we are suposed to be supporting anymore. Eleven over paid cheap imports who would leave without a second thought. A third rate manager who talks rubbish. A director of football who talks rubbish. An owner with zero ambition who is using the club to promote his other business. A payday loan company. A balance sheet. Not getting relegated. What is the point of NUFC?

      I’ve seen more infighting over the last five years than I did over the previous 25. Bickering, squabbling, fighting… it’s so sad to see an unsuccessful but proud club reduced to a petty minded zero ambition advertising hoarding.

      The march isn’t perfect but if you don’t want to do nothing this is your chance.

  5. WhoArYa says:

    Until there is a clear better option it might be best to concentrate on supporting the team not giving the media the opportunity to make the Toon look foolish again.

    Let’s wait and see what it looks like on TV but I’m embarrassed already.

  6. steve McGill says:

    i still dont get it.

    what do T4C want to tangibly achieve?

    my thoughts are that if we ignore the fat bastard he’ll go away eventually

  7. anon says:

    Agree with Steve. It is still not at all clear what this protest aims to achieve. Alex raised several valid points that are not addressed and definitely undermine the credibility of what is being said/done.

    With regards to the ‘infighting’, I’m not convinced that Ashley can be held responsible for people being unreasonable in the stands. I also had my season ticket moved from the north west to the south east… I now have to sit for the majority of games. Whilst I agree the home atmosphere has suffered due to this move, alas I can see quite clearly why the previous location for the ‘singing section’ was a safety issue. This would only have been made much worse by the culture of morons with flares and smoke bombs in the last year or so . ‘Infighting’ in the instances mentioned above is 100% the problem of the people involved. It’s not hard to be civil/reasonable at a football match whilst still enjoying and contributing to the atmosphere. This isn’t something we can really hold Ashley accountable for or justify a protest march with.

    That aside, Matt Flynn ^^ admits that Ashley will pay no attention whatsoever to this march. This contradicts the whole aim of it surely? If the man we want to listen, is not listening; the whole thing becomes a farce, and just makes us look silly.

    Like Alex, I am not against the idea of action being taken against the owner on account of the ambition (or lack of) shown over the past 2 summers. I do not however feel this is the right vehicle for it nor is it necessary to embellish facts to justify the movement.

    I think more constructive channels are those being taken by tf… looking into the finances on a professional level and really trying to find out exactly what is happening with the money at the club. Here we may find some genuine evidence to throw at the owner and question his motives.

    Finally, my biggest worry is that it will be nigh on impossible to keep ALL of the violent lunatics away from a protest like this and that there will inevitably be trouble, somewhere along the line. Nobody wants this.

  8. Peter Shearer says:

    At last some action from people who care passionately about their club. First bit of pride I have felt about our fans (well some of them) for a long time. To those that do nothing and moan about those that act-you are welcome to Mr Ashley. Sir Bobby would be proud of those defending his club. March on!

  9. Alex Hurst says:

    In response to Matt Flynn I wasn’t make the point that trouble in the stands was fantasy but accusing the owner of deliberately engineering that situation or even being responsible for it is the fantasy.

    As I said im one of the people who has been threatened with being banned (for standing at corners and penalties) so im aware of the problems. .. .but they are not in my opinion anything to do with the regime.

    • Matt Flynn says:

      Crossed wires, an occupational hazard of internet debate.

      We can’t be scared to fail. That’s the mentality Pardew adopts when we play Man City and we know how that turns out.

  10. brian hall says:

    the key thing, i think personally, is that this is a big attempt to try to get a united push to remove Ashley’s regime. in that context alone, as long as other fans dont mock it, be negative about it, and so on, then that is all we can ask. as for embarassing the club, I am not sure if we can go further on that one than the club have already managed to do over many times. we cannot bring sports direct down, that would be an absurd target, but we can make the lucrative kitchen part of the Ashley empire get hotter and hotter. and make him leave the kitchen. brian hall

  11. Jim McBurnie says:

    I am sympathetic to the whole idea of T4C but I really think we have to be intelligent enough to understand that there are only 2 ways to run a football club:

    (1) run it like Man City and throw money at players and manager and hope it all works; or

    (2) run it professionally by working within your means and not risking the club going out of business altogether.

    Obviously Mike Ashley isn’t throwing money at the problem any more (I think this might have been his initial idea, but the fiasco he inherited re. Allardyce, totally frightened him off after spending plenty but watching garbage).

    Ashley, unfortunately, has a preference for befriending loons like the poisoned dwarf and Kinnear, etc. He takes advice from people he trusts, and this must be a real benefit in a normal business. However, in football this can be a massive negative if those friends are irrational and limited in intelligence. Thus, we had the problems through the Keegan 2nd coming (if only he had listened to Keegan).

    Maybe Ashley never had any intention to spend, we’ll probably never know the truth. Which brings us onto one of Ashley’s main problems, as far as we fans are concerned. He just won’t speak to us, so we can only speculate.

    As a lad said in previous replies, some wrong-doings by fans are labelled as Ashley’s fault (Level 7, sitting/standing, etc – and the fans bringing flare/smoke canisters to the matches are an example where stupidity by young lads are having a detrimental effect on our club). We need to be able to take the blame when it is our fault. I was one of those who were thrown out of our seats after having paid a £500 bond to NUFC, under the Hall/Shepherd regime, and I don’t think Ashley has done anything as bad to our fans.

    There are so many good things that Ashley has instigated:

    We have the cheapest season tickets and match day tickets in the Premier League (unbelievably, Man City fans are moaning that seats are being made too cheap at the Etihad!!).

    The £30 membership scheme which gives fans discounts on tickets and shop items, as well as allowing fans to book tickets early, but the best thing about it is that the profits are ploughed into the Academy.

    I won’t be marching because I think Ashley is trying to steer this mighty club in the right direction, and under his stewardship the club will eventually return to fighting for titles again.

    But the main reason is that we will still have a club to support.

  12. AndyMac says:

    For those who believe this march is not worth attending because the Fatman wont take any notice, I would respond by saying “Sitting on your hands does f@@@ all either” !!!

    Get your arse into gear, whats it gonna cost you ?

  13. Niall Fleming says:

    I have no doubt that Ashley has fallen ‘out of love’ with NUFC. He has tried to sell it and even after his more public efforts failed he has continued on a more low key basis. If he ever had any empathy with NE values, which I doubt, that is long gone.

    I think what is clear is that this means finance rules and his priority is to clear his loans step by step. I can’t see him splashing the cash unless threatened by relegation.

    Like many rich people he doesn’t like being questioned and he has surrounded himself with people who will do his will, however capricious.

    The flaw in his logic is only this. To achieve his financial objectives he needs a capable D of F and Head Coach. He has neither. So he risks league status and players deteriorate rather than appreciate. This alienates supporters which means a slow erosion of fan based revenue.

    In itself the march won’t change anything, but it might be the first raindrops falling that precede a flood. No-one expects instant results, but you have to start somewhere and keep the faith that a sustained and determined campaign will do more than swap an Ashley for a Shepherd or vice versa.

    Keep on keeping on