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The Newcastle United Supporters Trust (NUST) seeks to benefit our football club and its supporters by channeling the passion of its loyal supporters into a forward-thinking non-profit organisation that is a legally constituted, democratic, not-for-profit Supporters Trust.
The Trust will act responsibly as a guardian of the future of Newcastle United. If the Trust believes that the Club is being run incompetently and not in the interests of the supporters the Trust will not be afraid to criticise. The Trust however, will not exist just to be critical; the Trust will also be about helping the club, tapping into the skills and expertise of its members and offering solutions.
The Trust is ran by its members. Every member is eligible to stand for election and to vote for candidates for the NUST board which will be accountable to all NUST members. The Trust is legally registered and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Any money raised or shares bought will belong to all members equally. The trust produces independently audited annual accounts and provides regular updates to members through meetings, newsletters, emails and website.
We now have members in 35 countries.
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Last week, the Premier League met with fan groups from its member clubs at the Hyatt Regency Churchill Hotel in London. I was lucky enough to represent the Newcastle United Supporters Trust at this event and can provide mostly positive feedback from my experience. I’ve had better coffee, mind.
The meeting started with a discussion on the progress of implementing a video assistant referee (VAR) system in top-flight matches. While the Premier League has already decided that VAR will be in use from the start of next season, its director of policy Bill Bush explained that the reasoning behind not introducing it sooner, i.e. this season following its use at the World Cup, was that the division wanted more “extensive” testing. Bush said that the challenge of operating VAR across multiple matches happening at the same time – he highlighted that this challenge did not exist to the same degree at the World Cup – would require some “fine tuning”. On Saturdays, the Premier League’s busiest day for fixtures, Bush noted that “clear standards” would have to be in place so as not to use VAR “excessively” and disrupt the flow from kick-off through to full-time too much. Essentially, he suggested, that stoppages for the sake of stoppages were to be avoided.
While the consensus of the fan groups present on the day was in favour of VAR, some consideration was given to whether the technology would cause a distinction between the experience for fans watching the match on TV versus those in the stadium. Bush said that the Premier League were taking this into account and drafting legislation which would possibly require VAR decisions to be explained, in detail, over a PA system.
The conversation in Marylebone then took a political turn, moving onto the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union. The Premier League, which is the workplace for many high-earning and highly taxed EU nationals, is apparently in the process of floating a “football-specific” immigration policy to the Home Office. The sentiment from fans around the table on the day was that foreign players had enhanced the league, and therefore the league should do what it can to maintain access to the best footballing talent in the world, irrespective of nationality.
Structured dialogue, i.e. regular meetings between fan groups and senior members of their clubs’ staff, was also on the agenda. The Premier League is reviewing its policy on the regularity with which clubs are mandated to “brief” fans on club-related news. There is also some talk of making forum events have “at least one director present”. The Premier League would like to see supporter liaison roles elevated in their importance.
It was at this point I suggested that the director attendance stipulation should be extended to owners. Bush responded that this would be at the individual owner’s discretion, but acknowledged the “concerns of certain clubs”. I highlighted that Newcastle had previously delayed and cancelled forum meetings. Bush suggested that the league would look into punishing clubs which did not fulfil their responsibilities in fan engagement.
Safe standing was also discussed on the day. All fan groups represented were in favour of this being introduced. Bush explained that, as with VAR, it is a case of carrying out the necessary checks before committing to something. The safety reviews are ongoing and will require external, government-level support from the Department for Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS).
On fan behaviour and recent pitch incursions, Bush made it clear that the Premier League is “against collective punishment” and would rather focus on individual bans and sanctions. Relating to the scenes during out 2-2 draw with Bournemouth, fellow Newcastle fan and chief executive of the United Football Supporters’ Organisation Kevin Miles noted the need “for a distinction between enthusiasm for a last-minute goal and a genuine intent to do harm”. Bush agreed that cases should be treated on an individual basis with context taken into account.
Travel for away games was also discussed. Progressive ticketing policies are being floated by the Premier League, in conjunction with DCMS, to various rail companies, including train tickets which are aligned to the fixture, rather than the intended date of travel. This would, in theory, mean that if fixtures were moved because of TV scheduling decisions, fans would at least not have to buy another ticket. There was also talk, Bush revealed, about a football supporters’ rail card, but rail companies were less receptive to this idea, as there are already many different concession arrangements in place.
I pointed out that travel for away fans, especially those of clubs far away from other clubs, was made more difficult when fixtures were re-arranged with little notice. I used Newcastle as an example, naturally, and drew attention to our 18 consecutive away fixtures on Monday nights. Bush asked whether I was sure if this was the case. Kevin Miles, as well as the representatives of several other northern clubs present, assured him that it was.
I said that I appreciated that some fixtures would become inconvenient travel situations, because of where Newcastle is, but asked whether more could be done to ensure that one-sided travelling did not persist. Newcastle fans are happy to follow their team to difficult destinations, so long as fans of other clubs are doing the same. The Liverpool and Everton delegates, in particular, were very supportive of this point. The Liverpool delegate noted that Liverpool’s mid-week or Monday night fixtures tend to be half at home and half away. He said that the same should be true of Newcastle’s.
Finally, the conversation moved onto Kick it Out’s anti-racism initiatives, particularly those aimed at making sure that grounds were more welcoming to fans from ethnic minority backgrounds. Kick it Out has produced guidance on how to report racism in the stands and is encouraging clubs to actively reach out to groups who might support them on TV but not feel comfortable attending the ground in person. The Premier League is lending its name to these initiatives and encourages fans groups to do similar work.
Overall, I’d class the meeting as a success insofar as important issues were raised and I got to say my piece about away day inconveniences. I’m encouraged by the progress made on VAR and structured dialogue. While it is unlikely Mike Ashley will turn up at the next fans forum event, it is nice to know that the Premier League agrees that these should be held more often and not unscrupulously re-arranged.
Watch Rohan discuss the meeting:
You can also view the minutes posted by the Football Supporters Federation (FSF):
Anyone reading the variety of reports of Newcastle fans’ behaviour in several different publications would feel justified in thinking the worst. I was there and I thought it was important to put a few of the accusations to bed and give some perspective from the point of view of someone that saw it all (or at least most of it).
I travelled down to Bournemouth at the weekend and like the vast majority of travelling Mags was in jubilant spirits for the day. There is something special amongst the fanbase when we’ve made a really long journey that’s hard to put into words unless you’ve experienced it first-hand. It’s something I recommend you all do.
It’s been difficult to read many of the reports in the media from the weekend and I’ve become increasingly annoyed as the accusations have grown, so here’s another perspective on the behaviour of some of our fans.
Let me start with half time. I stupidly decided to go down to the concourse before the end of the first half to buy a few beers. On the very overcrowded concourse there was a buoyant and happy atmosphere with some of the usual signing. We all heard a sound come from the stand but it took until we saw confirmation from the TVs that Newcastle had scored. The concourse erupted into celebrations. Some fans took it slightly too far and banged the metal above the bar.
At this point I was stood right at the front. It was the banging that caused the staff to decide to shut the bar. And that sparked a reaction amongst the fans to try and stop the shutters coming down. Plenty of fans had paid for drinks they hadn’t received, and it seemed pretty unfair that they were going to close the bar for a bit of banging and joyful singing when Newcastle had just scored.
I didn’t see any flares nor any smoke and I’m certain that the shutters weren’t coming down as an automatic reaction to smoke. Anyone that saw the concourse would be shocked if their counters had such technology installed. I certainly didn’t see any staff being pulled over the bar or being assaulted. I’m not saying that neither of those things definitely didn’t happen but I was in a pretty good position to see everything and didn’t notice either.
However, there was at least two instances I saw that were completely out of order. One of our fans, and I use that word begrudgingly, threw something at catering staff behind the bar and it hit them in the face.
Another idiot got behind the bar and looked to steal something. It wasn’t, as has been described, a case of him handing stuff back over the bar to a gleefully accepting crowd.
Both of these instances are despicable behaviour that were widely and loudly criticised by most of those in attendance. There is no defence to this kind of behaviour and instances like this shame our fan base.
Whilst there were a few isolated instances of unacceptable behaviour, to paint the large group of fans on the concourse as a drunken, criminal mob is hugely exaggerated at best and an outright smearing lie at worst.
Roll on 94 minutes and Matt Richie scored a quite beautiful equaliser. Lots of fans, myself included, moved towards the front to celebrate as is natural in such circumstances. It’s not clever to charge towards a small area as a crowd. It is not criminal. It was difficult to see clearly what happened in the melee but that’s exactly what it was. A chaotic mess of jubilant mags who were celebrating wildly in a small space with only a knee-high barrier between us and the playing area perimeter.
Common sense and perspective could and should have been used and fans calmly ushered back. But football fans have often been treated as criminals in the first instance as a matter of course and after recent events, heavy handed policing and stewarding prevailed. It looks likely to have a lasting impact on an unlucky few who ended up over the knee-high barrier. Anyone amongst that celebration knows that it could have been any one of us that ended up on the grass there and that none of us had the remotest criminal intent. I’d speculate that those that did end up on the grass didn’t intend to be there and were forced over.
One of those arrested has since been released without charge after CCTV showed he was pulled over by a steward. He was then detained for more than 20 hours before being released. This is unacceptable. That steward has probably shown more intent out of anyone to get Newcastle fans onto the pitch.
To support the lads facing prosecution for celebrating the winner on Saturday please donate here
Seven fans in the away end didn’t get home after Saturday. That night they were arrested for entering the field of play after the equaliser.
Fans shouldn’t enter the field of play. The law against entering the field of play is there rightly to protect players and officials. We’ve seen incidents in recent weeks in Birmingham and Edinburgh of those laws being broken and the people involved rightly facing prosecution. What happened on Saturday with fans of Newcastle United isn’t that.
We are launching a campaign to support those fans.
Having spoken to most of the families of the arrested fans – there was no intention to commit a criminal act. No players were harmed. No home supporters taunted.
Fans surged forwards at one of the smallest grounds ever to host Premier League football and for a matter of seconds were on the pitch.
We would like to support these fans who are facing banning orders and potential criminal records by raising contributions for their basic legal fees and basic travel costs as the hearings will take place in Dorset.
If any of the families or individuals feel unable to accept the fees or their charges are dropped before they have to travel or pay for legal expenses, then this money will be donated to charity and the charity of choice paid with a proof of public payment.
Please donate if you can:
Newcastle United Supporters Trust
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a club that will work with supporters on fan issues and will recognise their value as the long term custodians of the club;
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.
VIDEO: Colin Whittle goes into some detail about what a supporters trust is, what Newcastle United Supporters Trust does, how we can work together to achieve our goals and make Newcastle United a better experience for all fans. Safe standing, food banks, ticket prices and more.
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