Newcastle United tends to be a club that produces a lot of drama, so much so, that many would describe it as a bit of a circus. Well that’s exactly what Mike Ashley has achieved in the past number of days with his decision to ban access to three local newspapers. However, it has emerged that not only has Mike Ashley decided to ban freedom of the press from St James’ Park, he is also now trying to stifle the fans.
News today has confirmed that the Newcastle United Supporters Trust have had their ‘permanent’ seat on the newly formed Fan’s Forum taken away from them. While there does not seem to be any immediately recognisable reason for this, one can only contend that Ashley sees the NUST as a viable threat to him and his autocratic regime.
The NUST is perhaps the largest official fans group, and has a large membership base, with an elected board whose job is to represent the best interests of the Newcastle United fans.
NUST released a statement concerning the club’s decision to ban them from the Fan’s Forum,
As the only elected body representing fans, the board of Newcastle United Supporters Trust (NUST) welcomed the invitation to take up a permanent position on the Fans Forum organised by Newcastle United.
The Trust looked forward to the chance to interact with club officials on behalf of our members, with the opportunity to ask pertinent questions and report back to the membership afterwards.
The inaugural meeting of the Forum took place in September and little were we to suspect that the NUST permanent position would last only one night.
The Trust made clear that we reserved the right to report back to our members as to what went on at the Fans Forum, the club confirming via their Fans Liaison Officer that they accepted this.
Questions were duly asked (many supplied by our members following an online survey) at the Forum by the NUST representative, Peter Fanning, and a lively meeting produced many interesting topics of discussion.
Two days later, NUST published Peter Fanning’s overview of the meeting and it attracted a lot of publicity, due mainly to the nature of the topics covered but also the fact the Newcastle United minutes didn’t appear until 24 hours after they’d been advertised to be released.
When the club minutes did belatedly appear, nothing of substance that had been reported by NUST was contradicted in Newcastle United’s official feedback.
However, the spirit of openness has dramatically ended and NUST have been informed by Newcastle United that their ‘permanent‘ place at the Fans Forum has now been withdrawn, the only democratically elected organisation open to the whole of the NUFC fanbase, barred from attending the next meeting in December and all subsequent Fan Forums.
So, in the same week that the Trust organised a successful conference on fan engagement at Newcastle University Business School, covered by the BBC and attended by delegates from all over the country, the club have barred the local press and the only elected fans’ body from interacting with Newcastle United.
At the same time at a national level, the Government’s Culture Media and Sports Select Committee have recommended that football clubs develop meaningful and structured relationships with supporters.
They say the first casualty of war is the truth. The fans and local media don’t want to be at war with our football club, we just want a well run Newcastle United that values all of its supporters and the integral part NUFC plays at the heart of the local community.
It seems ironic that given how much emphasis that the NUST have put on fans engagement with their club, even to the point of organising a successful conference that pertained to the topic, that the club have now taken this decision to further alienate the fans and make it even harder for them to engage with the club.
It is blindingly obvious that the club has no genuine interest in engaging with the fans, and this latest move shows how much contempt that Mike Ashley, and his toxic regime holds Newcastle United fans in. Until we, as fans, stand up for ourselves, and defend our right to have a say in our club, then we will never see proper change within Newcastle United.