The Newcastle United Supporters Trust launch bid to buy a stake in...

The Newcastle United Supporters Trust launch bid to buy a stake in the Magpies

23
0
SHARE


The Newcastle United Supporters Trust has launched one of the most ambitious fan initiatives attempted in English football as they bid to buy a stake in the Magpies on behalf of the fans.

The NUST today launches The 1892 Pledge- a long-term, fan-led attempt to raise enough money to buy a stake in United when Mike Ashley sells the club to new owners.

It is a “realistic” initiative that has been three years in the making, billed as a “positive campaign” rather than a protest drive that will – the organisers admit – “live or die” by the way fans now respond to it.

Supporters are being asked to pledge money to give the Trust enough capital to enter into negotiations with any new or prospective new owners to buy a minimum of a 1% stake in the club to ensure supporter representation at the club

We can reveal full details of how the pledge works – with a website for donations now live. Key details include:

  • There’s no timescale, with the Trust saying they are in it for the “long haul” as they bid to raise a minimum of £3million to get them around the table with potential new owners
  • They are NOT trying to buy the club off Mike Ashley – and will only deal with someone taking over from the Sports Direct owner
  • They believe a sizeable fund would enable them to prove the commitment of fans to new owners while bringing something tangible to the table
  • The money would only be used for the purpose of buying a share in Newcastle. Every penny donated will either be used for that or donated to North East charities if the appeal is unsuccessful
  • In return for the fans’ financial backing, NUST would like new owners to allow the Trust to work within the club, either through an executive board position or another role which can allow the Trust, its members and the supporters of Newcastle United to influence the club and its future direction

Alex Hurst, the former Trust chairman spearheading the initiative, told the Chronicle: “We think football fans – and Newcastle fans – don’t realise how much power they have and how much influence they have.

“We think that when the club is sold the fanbase needs to start representing itself in terms of how the club is run. The only way to guarantee that is to own some part of the club so what we’re trying to do is to set the fanbase up to genuinely represent itself at ownership level to make sure the club is run on behalf of its supporters rather than what we have at the minute.

“We’re asking the fans to pledge what they can – ideally on a monthly basis but one-off pledges are absolutely fine, people can dip in and out but the best thing for us is monthly donations. Whether it’s a £1, a five, a tenner, £40, we don’t want people to give us anything they’d miss.

“This is supposed to be an affordable, long-term project. That’s the key for us: it’s long-term.

“It’s not going to be a month, or six months or a week, it’s going to be as long as it takes. If Ashley’s here for another five years, we’ll do it for that long.

“What we want is for fans to pay into the Trust to give the Trust a chance of buying a share in the club when it gets sold or stepping in to save it should it fall through the leagues.”

If the appeal does not succeed, all of the money raised will be donated to North East charities.

The Trust have appointed four trustees – Athletic writer George Caulkin, Ian Mearns MP, Warren Barton and chartered accountant Lee Humble – who will decide how the money is distributed if the bid does not succeed.

No timescale or limit on the appeal is being placed although the first landmark would be a pot of £3million – which would equate to around 1% of the club.

L-R Michael Mannion, Alex Hurst and Charlotte Robson of the Newcastle United Supporters Trust (NUST) outside St James' Park
L-R Michael Mannion, Alex Hurst and Charlotte Robson of the Newcastle United Supporters Trust (NUST) outside St James’ Park

The vision is that under new owners that would give fans a foothold at St James’ Park.

“We think that 1% would be the current Premier League valuation of the club,” Mr Hurst explains.

“We don’t want to be in the same position with potential new owners that we are with Mike Ashley. We think new owners are necessary but we want to be able to turn up at the table with some capital behind us as a support to make sure the club (a) belongs to us in some small way (b) we can guarantee some sort of access to ownership.

“While 1% of any business doesn’t guarantee you anything in principle other than that small proportion, 1% is the minimum. It wouldn’t get to 1% and then the fundraising would stop.

“We would expect and hope that any new owners would want to engage with the Trust and wider support and we’d like to make sure of that by turning up with what is the most important thing in football these days: money.”

The NUST has spent three years researching and setting up the appeal, adapting it and drawing inspiration from other, similar initiatives.

The organisers cite Hearts – who did something similar and come May 31st will own their club – as one example that proves the power of harnessing supporter power.

And that is the key: it is not about one or two wealthy benefactors. Instead, the Trust wants to emphasise supporters can help out in whatever way they feel is possible and every fan will have an equal voice if they are successful.

Mr Hurst says: “It’s about the everyday fan. We wouldn’t say no to anyone (donating) and we’re open to new ideas but this is about the strength of our fanbase across the region and the world.

“We’ve got 100s of 1,000s of fans across the world and we think that if we all work together to do this it can provide some sort of positive goal for fans. There’s not much positive about Newcastle at the moment.

“We’re not looking for high profile individuals here. This will succeed or fail based on the feeling of the Newcastle fanbase. It’s a long-term plan, long-term vision – we want tens of thousands of fans to get behind us rather than one or two.”

Alex Hurst of the Newcastle United Supporters Trust (NUST) outside St James’ Park

Of course, the club is currently locked in arbitration with the Premier League over the very real bid from Amanda Staveley’s PCP Capital Partners, along with the Saudi PIF and the Reuben Brothers.

This appeal can dovetail with that takeover – if a deal goes through in the coming months.

“If the club was to have new owners quite quickly well firstly, that’s something we all want to see. We’d rather the club was sold as soon as possible,” Mr Hurst said.

“Even if we weren’t in a position to go to the club and buy the 1% straight away hopefully new owners would see the path the club was on, they’d see what we’ve done so far and support it which would allow us to support it.

“I don’t see the proposed takeover as a negative at all and if that doesn’t happen and someone else came along, you’d hope that they wanted to engage with the Trust anyway but this shows we are organised as a Trust and we’re clear that we think that there needs to be support involvement in the organisation of Newcastle.”

This is an appeal grounded in realism that should offer fans a way of ensuring the dark days of the Ashley era are never allowed to return. It will rely on supporters coming together, offering what they can and sticking with it – even if the task feels like a difficult one.

But the end result could be spectacular for United fans, setting them up as a model for other clubs in an era where supporters have never felt so detached from their clubs.

Today marks the culmination of years of hard work by the Trust. The ideas have been tested with focus groups of fans, who have been receptive to the idea while raising their own questions about it.

We have produced a Q & A that covers the main areas fans wanted more details about – and will be running a special live event tomorrow night on our Facebook, Twitter and YouTube channels where you can ask Mr Hurst and other guests any questions – that starts at 7 pm.

“In 2018 we decided we were going to do this,” Mr Hurst revealed.

“The reason we gave the Trust another push and restarted it was to do this. We realised we couldn’t just do it because we thought it was a good idea, we needed to get a decent membership behind the Trust and give it some legitimacy as a strong supporter organisation.

“We needed to do our homework and couldn’t do it as something which is unlikely to ever come off. We know there are other clubs that have done it and other clubs that have done things like this before.

“We wanted to do our research on supporter ownership and influence and we had to put together our team our Trustees and get the right marketing and messages.

“It’s all about being ready to launch in as strong and positive a way as possible. You only get one chance to launch it and you want to make sure it’s right so it was worth waiting to make sure those things were ticked off rather than rushing it through.

“I’ve said this before but I think that when Mike Ashley sells Newcastle United the only thing worth selling is its fanbase. Without the fans the club is worthless.

“You’ve got a training ground that either needs knocking down or a hell of a lot of work, even more on the Academy, the stadium needs a lot of work – you can’t sell it. The playing squad is not great, the infrastructure is not great so you’ve just got the fanbase.

“We just think that when the club is sold the fanbase needs to start representing itself in terms of how the club is run. The only way to guarantee that is to own some part of the club so what we’re trying to do is to set the fanbase up to genuinely represent itself at ownership level to make sure the club is run on behalf of its supporters rather than what we have at the minute.”

To pledge yourself or for more details on the 1892 pledge, go to 1892pledge.co.uk



Source link

LEAVE A REPLY