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.
The Trust are delighted to hear the news that Premier League clubs have agreed to continue the £30 away tickets cap today having worked alongside other supporters Trusts and the Premier League on the campaign for cheaper away tickets.
Away fans are an integral part of any match day, the effort, time and commitment away fans show supporting their team often hundreds of miles away is again being listened to.
The cap of £30 was originally introduced in 2017/17 season and we hope away fan attendances will remain at the high levels seen in recent years.
Minutes of Annual General Meeting, 6.00pm 30th January 2019. Held at Lit and Phil, Westgate Road, Newcastle upon Tyne.
Border Members Present: Peter Fanning (Chair), Alex Hurst (AH), Colin Whittle (CW), Anthony Armstrong (AA), Simon Campbell (SC), Michael Carling (MC), Chris Johnson (CJ), Paul Brown King (PBK),
PF opened the AGM and thanked members for their attendance. He informed members that he was stepping down from the role of Chair following the AGM, with the role to be taken up by AH.
Apologies were received from Board members Norman Watson (NW), Mal Mclean (MMc) and Wallace Wilson (WW).
2.0 Chairman’s report
PF presented his report on the activities of the trust over the past 12 months and in particular concentrated upon NUST involvement with the Magpie Group/FSF and Supporters Direct and their merger/relationship with the club and the Fans Forum/ NUST proposed rule change /relationship with NUFC Fan Foodbank /relationship with NUFC Foundation.
Kevin Miles (CEO of FSF) was invited to explain to members the details of the FSF/Supporters Direct merger and provided details of the organisation and the services the FSF provides to fans on a wide range of supporter issues.
CW outlined the continued involvement of NUST in relation to the NUFC Fans Foodbank initiative which was now into its second year. Collections continued on a match day and were complemented by a number of funding initiatives through the year.
AH was introduced to members as the incoming Chair and talked to members about potential plans he hoped to introduce following his appointment as Chair.
3.0 Treasurer’s report
CW outlined the NUST accounts, and confirmed the financial position of the Trust.
4.0 Re-appointment of auditors
PF addressed the members and proposed that S.M Lowery, who had audited the Trust accounts for some years, be re-appointed. The proposal was approved.
5.0 Amendment to Rules
CW outlined to members the history of the NUST rules and how they were ‘model rules’ agreed by Supporters Direct with the FCA and adopted by Supporters Trusts incl NUST. The rules had been subsequently updated following a change in legislation and a revised set to be adopted by Supporters Trusts had been agreed between the FCA and Supporters Direct. A copy of the revised rules were distributed to members highlighting the changes, together with an explanatory note prepared by NW. The proposal to adopt the new revised set of Rules was approved.
6.0 Any Other Business
PF invited members to raise any other business. No matters were raised.
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.
Following the first annual Fans Supporting Foodbanks conference arranged by the Football Supporters Federation in Newcastle last year, it was the turn of Merseyside based Supporter Foodbanks, a combination of Everton’s Blue Union and Liverpool’s Spirit of Shankly, to host this year’s conference in the grand setting of St George’s Hall, Liverpool. Given our involvement in NUFC Fans Foodbanks NUST representative Colin Whittle attended the event with Bill Corcoran.
Hosted by Ian Byrne from Spirit of Shankly and Dave Kelly from Blue Union the day began with a passionate introduction from Liverpool Councillor Jane Corbett who we knew from her visit to last year’s conference in Newcastle. She was followed by a number of speakers talking about local initiatives being supported by fans and the background behind those initiatives. It was clear from the many passionate speeches made that there has been a ‘major buy in’ from the local community –supporters working together for the benefit of their communities.
Liverpool Chief Executive Peter Moore and former player Jamie Carragher both spoke well-it was pleasing to see a high profile ex player have a part to play- as did Red Neighbours representative Forbes Duff and Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson and Chester MP Chris Matheson. Donna Scully from Solicitors Carpenters also spoke about her own firm’s involvement.
The afternoon session involved fan representatives speaking about fan initiatives at their own clubs. Contributions from Celtic, Huddersfield, Merseyside, Sunderland and our own Bill Corcoran, speaking with his usual passion about NUFC Fans Foodbank, were just some of the contributions to the afternoon session.
A well organised conference-our hosts continue to be a source of inspiration no doubt about that, and a lot to learn about other fan group’s initiatives, it’s just a shame that Foodbanks are necessary in this day and age.
What the conference demonstrated more than anything was the power of football fans working together and the overall power for good we can bring to our local communities. An undoubted positive force after years of unjust criticism in certain quarters.
To finish the day off and as a gesture of thanks NUFC Fans Foodbank contributed to our hosts a framed Fans Foodbank poster signed by Rafa.
There was plenty of time to reflect on what had been a thoughtful and inspirational day during the train journey back home, but speaking from the NUST perspective we’d like to thank every single person who has contributed in any way to our own NUFC Fans Foodbank……magnificent support for those in need within our own community.
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.
Mike Ashley’s reign at Newcastle United has been the subject of an article in this months WSC by Paul Brown. NUST were asked to provide comment and the article is published in full below.
Among the shareholders attending the Sports Direct AGM on September 12 were several Newcastle United fans. Also in attendance was Mike Ashley, the Sports Direct CEO and Newcastle United owner, but fans were not able to question him on the relationship between the two businesses. During a rushed meeting, the board allowed no questions from the floor and departed after just 15 minutes. Ashley is under pressure from shareholders, suppliers, unions and MPs following repeated warnings of mismanagement
and poor working practices, and due to the fallout from the recent purchase of House of Fraser. A series of newly-coordinated protests from Newcastle fans seems the last thing he needs.
The protests are being led by the recently-formed Magpie Group, a coalition of fan organisations including the Newcastle United Supporters’ Trust (NUST), the Ashley Out campaign, True Faith fanzine, and stadium display organisers Wor Flags. At its first public meeting, a positive and well-attended gathering held in the week before the AGM, group organisers handed out factsheets detailing Ashley’s litany of offences during his 11 years of ownership, ranging from a lack of investment in players and facilities and the stifling of commercial income and matchday revenue to renaming St James’ Park the “Sports Direct Arena” and appointing Joe Kinnear as manager (twice!).
The facts do not make good reading for Ashley or the handful of pundits who repeatedly defend him in the media. Ashley bought the club in May 2007 for £134m, and inherited £77m of debt. According to the club’s latest accounts, by 2017 that debt had almost doubled to £152m. Sports Direct has never paid anything for the advertising that blankets St James’ Park. Commercial income has halved under Ashley’s ownership, while matchday income has fallen by a third.
Things have gone backwards on the pitch, too. In the 11 years before Ashley, Newcastle qualified for European competition ten times, reaching the Champions League group stages twice. In the 11 years since, the club has qualified for the UEFA Cup only once, and has been relegated from the Premier League twice. As for investment in players, a much-shared statistic shows that, since promotion in the summer of 2017, Brighton’s net spend is £110m, Huddersfield’s is £78m, and Newcastle’s is £1m.
Sports Direct controls the club’s retail operations, and in the five years to 2017 the club made a net loss of £5.5m from the arrangement. Ashley has purchased land behind St James’ Park’s Gallowgate stand, for a knock-down price of £6m, and obtained planning permission for a £70m residential development, effectively blocking any future expansion of the ground. The latest accounts for Ashley’s MASH Holdings company, through which he owns the club, were not published as required in January and are long overdue. Meanwhile, the club is under ongoing investigation by HMRC for suspected tax fraud.
“The owner clearly doesn’t care about the club,” NUST board member Colin Whittle tells WSC. “He does, however, care about his retail empire, and that’s what we’re concentrating on.” Protests outside stores and online are targeting Sports Direct and its many subsidiary companies and brands, including Flannels, Cruise, Slazenger and Firetrap, in an effort to disrupt the use of Newcastle United as a marketing tool. Part of the action involves spreading awareness of just how many brands are owned or part-owned by Sports Direct.
The protests have been given some urgency by the situation regarding Rafa Benitez’s contract, which expires at the end of the season. Fans fear Benitez will leave due to the lack of support from Ashley, prompting the #IfRafaGoesWeGo movement on social media. “To many of us it’s the manager who is holding things together,” says Whittle. “This is galvanising fans in a way that we haven’t seen before. People aren’t prepared to allow Rafa to go without a fight.”
Protests outside Sports Direct stores have made national headlines, as has the creation of a website, sportsredirect.com, which directs shoppers to alternative sportswear retailers. The Sports Direct Twitter account has effectively been silenced after a barrage of disruptive responses from fans. So has the account for Keith Bishop Associates, Ashley’s PR firm. Shareholders and suppliers are also in the firing line. “Sports Direct’s share price has dropped,” says Whittle, “and while this is due to many factors, continued pressure from Newcastle fans is playing a part. We’d encourage fans of other clubs to support us. It’s hoped that he’ll eventually consider ownership of Newcastle more trouble than it’s worth.”
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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Newcastle Upon Tyne
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