Newcastle United is not an exclusive #club that thrives on petty localism. There is no initiation process involving Greggs pasties, being shirtless or drinking pints while staring at bridges.
Newcastle United Supporters Society Limited
Registration Number: 30721R
6.00pm, 30th January 2019
The Lit and Phil Society, 23 Westgate Road, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE1 1SE
Trust board members:
Chairman; Peter Fanning, Norman Watson, Alex Hurst, Simon Campbell, Michael Carling, Anthony Armstrong, Mal McLean, Paul Brown-King, Colin Whittle, Chris Johnson.
Re-appointment of Auditors
Amendments to Rules
Any other business
The Annual General Meeting is open to all shareholding members* of the Newcastle United Supporters Society Limited (trading as Newcastle United Supporters Trust).
Proof of identity is provided prior to entrance.
*Must be aged 16 or over, and a paid up to date member.
In another of a series of articles from NUST members, Phil Hornsby sets out his views on the current situation at NUFC.
These are difficult times being a Newcastle United Supporter. I have supported the club for over 40 years and in my view what as a supporter group we are facing at present, compares equally unfavourably with any of the low times in my past experience.
However, we have always found a way forward and I believe we are now doing so again.
I saw my first Newcastle United Game on the 20th March 1970, a 3-1 win against Stoke. However, it was not until the second half of the 1976/77 Season that I started going regularly. We finished 5th and qualified for Europe. The following season we were relegated. Sounds familiar!
My time of supporting Newcastle I will divide into 3 distinct periods:
1977-1990: The club was run by a board of directors who consisted of local businessmen and solicitors whose positions were largely inherited having been passed onto them by their fathers. The chairmen over this period of time were Lord Westwood, Bob Rutherford, Stan Seymour Jnr and Gordon McKeag.
1990-2007: Hall/ Shepherd era
2007-the not too distant future: Mike Ashley
I am going to reflect on these three periods of time and discuss how Newcastle United’s evolution since 1977 within the context of the changes in football and society, mean that as a supporter group and as part of the Magpie Group, I believe we can be confident of being part of the catalyst for effective change in how our club is run.
1977-1990: Lord Westwood et al
There are clear parallels to be drawn with the current situation. The Ashley era is increasingly becoming a painful reminder to supporters of my generation of what supporting Newcastle was like for those first thirteen years.
On the field, the team suffered two relegations. Much of the time was spent meandering in the old second division, going nowhere. Of course there were false dawns, the biggest of which was the two seasons when Kevin Keegan played for the team and led us to promotion. This opportunity was squandered with the manager, Arthur Cox leaving before we kicked off back in the First Division after a dispute with the board about his contract.
We had 3 outstanding players around which a successful team could have been built: Peter Beardsley, Chris Waddle and Paul Gascoigne. All were sold and not adequately replaced.
The quality of managers, Arthur Cox aside were middling to poor.
Supporters today complain, rightly, about the neglect at the ground. However St James Park like many other grounds at this time, was a disgrace. Stories about the state of the toilets in the Gallowgate End told by those of us who experienced them are the stuff of legends, but true! The old Leazes End was demolished and replaced by a high wall with a bit of terracing in front. This was because after the planned redevelopment started the money ran out. Following the Bradford City Fire, priority had to be given to demolishing and rebuilding the West Stand, which became the Milburn Stand. Those of us who sat in that old West Stand can only think there but for the grace of God, goodness knows what those enforcing modern day fire regulations would have made of it.
In summary this was a time of austerity and lack of ambition. Like today, supporters knew the potential that existed and were frustrated by the direction the board of directors took the club in. These were local men who undoubtedly supported the team. However, they had largely inherited their positions at the club. To coin a phrase, Newcastle United was “The Family Silver” and maintaining their control was more important than meeting the aspirations of supporters and they were unwilling to sanction the investment required to make us competitive in the First Division.
However, supporters were unable or unwilling to ever effectively take any positive action due to the difficulties in communication as compared to the present day, and a stoical attitude of acceptance. Speaking personally, it is a desire not to allow the club to regress to this type of situation for the long term again which is a significant motivation now.
1990-2007: John Hall/ Freddy Shepherd Era
The original Magpie Group led by John Hall and Freddy Shepherd understood the potential and had the financial resources to tempt stubborn but greedy men to part with their shares and sell their inheritance.
The achievements of our football team over this period are well known. Although there were disappointing times under the managerial reigns of Dalglish, Gullitt, Souness and Roeder ( although we did reach the FA Cup Final twice), it is the periods when the team was under the guidance of Keegan and Robson that are best remembered; we competed at the business end of the Premier League and European Football was a regularity.
Although there is controversy about their legacy and their stewardship, of course they sold up to Mike Ashley making a huge amount of money, it is the positive aspects of their legacy I am focusing on this article.
This was the time when the club realised its potential both on and off the field. Aside from the achievements of the team, sell out crowds became commonplace, commercial revenues were a significant source of income and we now have a stadium of which we can be proud, “ The cathedral on the hill”. Whether we like it or not, this coincided with Sky televising the Premier League and the exposure they provided significantly increased our profile.
The memory of this period I view as being very significant in the perception of our club today and why to quote Oliver Holt , he regards us as “ a top six club”. It is still relatively recent and a very significant driver in our efforts at this time.
2007-Present Day: Mike Ashley
I do not need to chronicle the misery of this period, other than to say it is increasingly becoming a mirror of my earlier years supporting the club.
The Times are a Changin!
Times have changed and this is the reason why I believe we can be optimistic. The world is a smaller place. Between 1977 and 1990, the travails of Newcastle United were of little interest to the national media, who being based in London and Manchester focused on the fortunes of the clubs in those regions. The misery of the Newcastle supporters were of little consequence.
Up until Rafa Benitez became our manager, I think it would be fair to describe the attitude of the vast majority of Newcastle Supporters, including myself under the Ashley Regime as again having become stoical. We accepted the indignities inflicted upon us with little protest other than a shrug of the shoulders and looking forward to the next false dawn.
Rafa aware of the recent history of the club knew its potential, has reawakened the club with all parts connected apart the owner. Links have been re-established in the community and in some cases expanded.
Rafa has been the catalyst but what else has happened. Social Media now exists at a level enabling much easier communication. This has been fully utilised by ourselves in coming together to work towards effective change. John Gibson once described trying to organise Newcastle Supporters as like “trying to herd cats!” I think we have put this one to bed.
Our efforts have been recognised in both the local but more importantly the national media. We have had Ian Wright on BBC 5 Live and Jake Humphries on BT Sport not holding back in their criticism of the regime. Sky seems to be taking a more balanced approach with contributions from Steve Howey, Jamie Carragher and the Custis Brothers. ( I do wonder if this reflects a change in attitude, so instead of broadcasting cushy interviews between Ashley and Craigy, they are now distinctly unimpressed that given the large sums of money the club have received from Sky, this has not been reflected in investment in the team, and consequently the televised product has been diminished).
Apart from the excellent reporting of George Caulkin, Luke Edwards, Mark Douglas and other local Journalists we have support from influential national journalists such as Henry Winter, Oliver Holt and David Conn.
I must mention the contributions of Dennis Wise, Richard Keys and Andy Gray amongst others. I have enjoyed listening to their opinions. Why? It reflects how out of touch Ashley is that he chooses to uses these type of discredited individuals to argue his case. The saying, “When you are in a hole stop digging” could not be more appropriate. Their utterings only add strength to our cause.
Newcastle is now recognised nationally as a vibrant thriving city whose profile has significantly grown. Our football club is an institution within the city whose progress at the start of the century reflected the development that was taking place making Newcastle a very significant social, cultural and economic centre. Ashley’s lack of respect for the club is seen increasingly at national level as an insult to the city.
We are winning the argument and as our situation is now becoming one increasingly discussed in the national media, this in turn is increasing the focus on Sports Direct, and the unethical way he runs this business. Ashley’s discomfort must be increasing daily.
If we continue our efforts the pressure from all sources on him will continue to increase and he will sell eventually. We can only hope the damage inflicted beforehand is minimised.
We have momentum, let’s keep it going!
The third TF Forum took place at Tyneside Irish Centre on Thursday 11th October and NUST were glad to contribute to what was a fascinating night, supplying both a compère (Colin Whittle) and a panel member (Norman Watson). All in aid of a very worthy cause ,the NUFC fans food bank.
The night began by TF’s Alex Hurst introducing NUFC Fans food bank champion Bill Corcoran, who explained the role of the food bank and the contribution from NUFC fans to this great cause. The Magpie Group Chair Wallace Wilson and member Adam Widdrington then followed with a short explanation about their contribution to their own campaign so far.
The main event then followed, with the first panel comprising of local based journos George Caulkin of the Times and Luke Edwards of the Telegraph responding to questions about the current situation at NUFC, their thoughts on the state of the club, Rafa’s own position and future, as well as a number of other NUFC related matters.
After a short break to announce the raffle prize winners and to allow the appreciative audience time to refill, the second panel convened, and consisted of award winning journalist David Conn, representatives from Liverpool’s Spirit of Shankly , Jay MacKenna , and Rangers Sons of Struth, Craig Houston as well as former NUST Chair Norman Watson and TMG’s Wallace Wilson.
Both Jay and Craig spoke at length about struggles with their owners and the action they had taken, whilst David Conn spoke about the wider issue of football governance in the game. Both Norman and Wallace brought a local slant to the proceedings. The audience appeared to be both captivated by the stories they were hearing and inspired to hear the stories of fellow football fans in their struggle against poor owners.
We would urge fans to listen to the whole evening which is available on a Podcast via True Faith NUFC Podcast, donations to go to NUFC Fans food bank.
All in all, a great night with more than £2k raised to support NUFC Fans food bank. Thanks to all who gave up their time to take part.
The second open meeting organised by The Magpie Group took place at the Labour Club last night before a packed audience who listened to local MP’s Chi Onwurah, Ian Mearns and FSF CEO Kevin Miles.
The trio of speakers, all NUFC fans, spoke passionately about Newcastle United, their love for the club clearly demonstrated to an appreciative audience.
The evening began by Chi outlining the work behind her petition presented In Parliament about the ownership of NUFC which caused so much concern in the Ashley camp which led him to formally respond. She went on to explain how she now intended to ‘follow the money’, citing in particular the deal regarding the land at Gallowgate Car Park on Strawberry Place.
Life Long fan Ian Mearns, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Football Supporters, then followed, highlighting his travels following NUFC over the years and explaining his role as Chair and its purpose which is to protect the interest of football fans. He spoke passionately of his desire to see fans come together to protect the future of NUFC.
Ian was followed by Kevin Miles from FSF who briefed the audience on the role of the FSF and the work they have done over the years to help football fans up and down the country offering the help of the FSF to fans. As longstanding members of the FSF we can vouch for the excellent work they have done over the years.
It was then over to the floor with a wide range of questions /suggestions and opinions from a packed audience which covered a number of areas. The audience were encouraged to provide their feedback on the most popular suggestions made by fans following literally 100’s of suggestions made from fans.
Word reached fans in attendance that Mr Ashley was in town …well slightly out of town….and a contingent of fans including members from NUST headed up to Ponteland to register disapproval with the owner and to display Ashley Out/Sports Redirect banners. The night ended with the owner giving the V’s to fans….what more can you say!
A members view. NUST member Andy Ashwell sets out his thoughts on the current situation at NUFC:
As if anyone needed reminding, the last few days have provided more examples, past and present, of the crass and inept way in which Newcastle United Football Club has been run since the arrival of Ashley in 2007.
Firstly, in two short extracts from his book amounting to just a few pages, Kevin Keegan has given us a glimpse into what promises to be an encyclopedia of the botched mismanagement and amateurish running of a football club. So far, we have read KK’s observations of the club’s Head of Recruitment (Tony Jimenez) with a spectacular lack of ‘situational awareness’ regarding transfer targets. Next, the stunted cockney Executive Director with a liking for ‘commercials’, i.e. signing nobodies to keep a couple of agents sweet.
It’s fair to point out that little has changed bar the names, and we’re again in a situation where a respected manager like Rafa has to have his every decision ratified by a Managing Director (Charnley) who has arguably less of a football background than Jimenez did.
And then there is the undeclared role of Justin Barnes, a.k.a Ashley’s ‘fixer’, who was part of the four horsemen of the apocalypse who turned up in the Directors Box at Palace on saturday. While Wise was officially appointed Executive Director, nobody has been able to identify with any certainty exactly what Barnes’ involvement is at NUFC.
In the 2004 Competition Appeal Tribunal hearing (after Ashley grassed on his competitors for price fixing), it was noted that “ Mr. Ashley operates largely informally, conducting business on his mobile phone and in meetings, while leaving it to others to make notes and sort out the details.” (It’s worth noting that the same tribunal found “ Mr. Ashley’s evidence was open, honest and in general reliable”).
The long list of clueless minions employed in executive roles at NUFC shows that this remains his default method of conducting business. How can a football club operate effectively when the owner seemingly isolates the manager from his circle of trust, and that circle is full of toadies with little football experience/knowledge? Why have lessons not been learned?
With the weekend’s impending ‘transfer summit’, we can only hope that Rafa’s/our fate isn’t sealed as he is forced to deal with Ashley’s fawning yes men, undermined and humiliated by sycophantic lackeys as per KK.
On top of KK’s revelations comes the news that NUFC have ‘asked’ local boxer Lewis Ritson’s management to remove the club badge from his merchandise. Tweeting afterwards, he said: “Disappointed in NUFC, been in touch with my manager telling them a need to take all nufc logos off merchandise/clothes but happy for me to wear the logo when am live on TV, a team I’ve supported all my life and held a season ticket for 7 years when younger! Mike Ashley Out!”
For any pedantic types; fair enough, they don’t have a licence to use the badge, but surely a bit of perspective needs to come into play here. Ritson himself doesn’t profit from the merchandise, and while the manufacturer could do, realistically any such gain would be miniscule in comparison to revenue from replica shirts and other official club merchandise.
It comes across as petty and unnecessary, and a slap in the face of someone (a fan) who considers Newcastle United a part of his identity, and epitomises the cold, soulless and disengaged nature of the modern day club. This is in stark contrast to the relationship that exists between Tony Bellew and Everton, a club that strives to maintain a community image.
Given what amounts to borderline humiliation, what price Ritson or his entourage bringing the #AshleyOut message to millions when he fights for the European Lightweight title in Newcastle on October 13th – live on Sky Sports? Already a hugely popular fighter in his native Tyneside, that would elevate him to hero status. Go on man, you know it makes sense…
For the last five years the Football Supporters Federation have carried out an ‘Away Fans Survey’ in order to record the experience of fans following their club away. Feedback from supporters allows the FSF to gather information about such areas as pricing, facilities, stewarding and much more. Last season’s survey was completed by more than 3,800 away fans-Southampton being rated highest in the Premiership.
The survey provides the FSF with an enormous amount of feedback on how fans feel they are treated and the data is shared with clubs in order that they can consider how they can improve the ‘away experience’ for fans.
We’ve not been without our problems here at NUFC with many of our longest trips being moved for TV scheduling and further problems being created by the short re-scheduling of the Everton away fixture –which caused NUST to seek compensation from the club for fans -and the never ending saga of our trip to Tottenham.
If you want to make your voice heard please fill in the survey which can be accessed via the FSF website; www.fsf.org.uk
The NUFC Fans Foodbank is now well established here at NUFC, setting up opposite the Gallowgate End every home game, as well as operating from a Unit within the Grainger Market .Last year saw the first National Fans Foodbank Conference hosted here at NE1 with attendees from a variety of fans groups from up and down the country, with speakers from Everton, Liverpool, Celtic as well as our own NUFC Fans Foodbank. The Conference inspired fans of other clubs to set up their own match day collections and the movement appears to be growing.
It is credit to football fans up and down the country that they have got behind this initiative and here at Newcastle we are proud of the contributions made our supporters .NUST are happy to have played a part in our own NUFC Fans Foodbank and we will continue to assist where we can.
This year’s national National Fans Foodbank Conference is due to take place in Liverpool on 19th October and we are pleased to report that we will have an NUST representative in attendance. We will report back on progress that has been made by fans since last year’s Conference.
I don’t spend a lot of time at AGMs; in fact, the Sports Direct version held in a partly finished floor space at Academy House today was my first. I could be wrong, but I’m fairly certain they usually last more than 15 minutes for large scale businesses such as this.
However, after the cursory/derisory amount of time allocated to the meeting, and Ashley’s appearance after saying he was too busy, the most striking aspect of the non-event was the complete absence of a Q&A session involving shareholders in the audience (not to mention the sprinkling of Mags in attendance) questioning the board of directors.
The ‘meeting’ was chaired by Keith Hellawell, who has previously relied on Ashley’s intervention as Chief Executive and majority shareholder to retain his position as Chairman following shareholder unrest. After Hellawell confirmed his and non-executive director Simon Bentley’s resignations, he covered some admin points before giving some guidance on the polling card, which contained the 18 Resolutions that were to be voted upon. Questions were invited from shareholders/proxies, but specifically regarding the 18 Resolutions only. When there were no takers, the board hastily relocated to a nearby meeting room, one making a glib comment about getting to the pub early.
With people unclear whether the meeting was over or briefly adjourned, the room started to empty. There was no ‘any other business’ or opportunity for an open forum Q&A session. As far as I could see, there wasn’t even a printed agenda, only a few rows of plastic seats on a bare concrete floor. I asked both a reporter and a shareholder whether I was wrong to expect a Q&A, and both confirmed that it is normal practice to include this in an AGM.
While Q&A sessions are not a compulsory element of any AGM, they are seen as an ideal opportunity to engage with shareholders and let them have their say. Indeed the ICSA (Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators), who ‘champion good governance practices’, identify the Q&A as one of the main reasons shareholders attend an AGM. It is also seen as an opportunity for good ‘PR’ in front of the media.
Given the current climate of shareholder unrest, including advisory groups advocating voting against Ashley and Hellawell, this should have given the board some much needed face time with their investors. It raises further questions about the corporate governance of Sports Direct, which is at the top of the list of current shareholder concerns, along with a falling share price, the reported £5million payment to his daughter’s boyfriend, and the House of Fraser buyout.
There were no presentations, speeches or any sort of board-shareholder engagement that (according to my research) are common practice in corporate AGMs; Ashley remained silent, with a decidedly uncomfortable look on his face. On reflection, the whole meeting came across as scripted and stage-managed, an approach with which all NUFC fans are all too familiar.
Is this just another example of ‘typical Ashley’? He is either gambling on shareholder loyalty, as he does with ours, or it is another display of outright arrogance and contempt; in my opinion, it is a mixture of both. To quote a recent headline from the national press: “The investors aren’t happy. But Mike Ashley doesn’t have to care.”
“The club apologised for delays in the regularity of Fans Forum meetings. The club … hoped that supporters ………. would acknowledge how committed the club has been to communicating openly as part of the Forum.” – extract from Fans Forum minutes 25th April 2018.
This is what the club said in April at their first meeting for over 18 months. They’re supposed to arrange at least two meetings per year but this hadn’t been happening. At the request of the Supporters Trust representative on the Forum they agreed to diary a programme of future meetings, the first being Tuesday 28th August.
On Monday 27th August the club sent out a message cancelling the meeting.
This at a time when there has been considerable unrest amongst fans and huge media attention about all matters Newcastle United. Protests and fan group meetings, disgraceful inaccurate statements being made by so called pundits and questions being asked at Government level about the ownership and management of our club. Could there ever be a more important time for the club hierarchy to meet with fans and discuss openly their ongoing concerns?
They’ve said they are committed to communicating openly with fans. Actions speak louder than words, however, and the Fans Forum would appear not to rank high enough in their priorities.
The Newcastle United Supporters Trust is not a protest group, but a positive force for change.
We seek 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 Newcastle United Supporters Trust (NUST) seeks to benefit both the Football Club and its supporters by channeling the passion of Newcastle supporters into a forward-thinking organisation that is a legally constituted, democratic, not-for-profit Supporters Trust of Newcastle United.
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