Trust’s Pledge looks to Raise the stakes
NEW CAMPAIGN AIMS TO GENERATE
THE Newcastle United Supporters’ Trust concedes that they have been given no guarantee from any prospective buyers of Newcastle United that they would be given a chance to purchase a share of the club.
The NUST has launched the 1892 Pledge, a long-term project which it hopes can secure some fan ownership of the club.
Fans are being encouraged to donate little amounts when they can to the project with the aim of building up a pot of money to offer to any new owners of the club in return for a small percentage in it.
But those behind the pledge admit that they have no guarantees a new owner – in particular, the Saudibacked consortium which tried to buy the club last year – would take up the Trust’s offer.
“No, not at all,” NUST board member Alex Hurst said when asked if he knew if there was a stake for sale should financier and figurehead Amanda Staveley complete her deal. “We’re trying to be clear about that – this is an ambition and a hope of ours.
“Nothing is guaranteed. We spoke with Amanda Staveley last summer, I haven’t spoken to her since. She was very positive about fan engagement and was very grateful for what the trust did such as the 8,000 emails to MPS that got us in front of Richard Masters to ask questions about the takeover, but at the minute this is about the fans.
“Right now, we have to get this launched and if Amanda Staveley or other potential owners of Newcastle United who enter into negotiations with the club want to find us then we’re not hard to track down.”
But a lack of a guarantee doesn’t scare those behind the pledge – a new owner rejecting a potential deal is something the Trust has contemplated but even that outcome doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the project.
“It would be fine, we would be disappointed,” Hurst said when asked what would happen if a prospective owner rejected the Trust’s offer.
“You’re at the whim of any potential new owner. Of course, they could come in and say we don’t want your £3m, £6m, £10m that we’ve raised, and they have every right to do that but we do think that would be a PR own-goal.
“We don’t think that would be a great sign about fan engagement at the football club but ultimately we are relying on people buying the club who want to engage with us on that level.
“That’s what we hope will happen – and we can give ourselves the opportunities to find out by raising the money but ultimately that is entirely down to a new owner.
“If an owner was willing to sell the Trust a percentage, it would be up to the members to accept that arrangement and they would vote by a majority to do it or not. The Supporters Trust exists for one reason, that is to represent Newcastle fans with their football and progress the interest of the fan base.
“We are open to working with anyone in any way possible in a constructive and timely manner which is sadly not what we have got at the minute.”
If an offer was to be rejected, it would be up to those appointed as ‘Guardians’ – namely Gateshead MP Ian Mearns, former United defender Warren Barton, journalist George Caulkin and chartered accountant Lee Humble – and then members of the Trust to what would happen next – whether to continuing raising funds or cancel the pledge and donate the money to charity but Hurst insists
there are ‘no hard or fast rules’ on when it would end.
The Trust feel that the current level of fan engagement from those at the top of the current hierarchy has led them to this point – although the project has been three years in the making with Hurst and current NUST chair Greg Tomlinson admitting that they feel they have tried all other options to change ownership, including protests and boycotts.
“There has been some success – Gallowgate Flags which then become Wor Flags, what an example of fan collaboration,” Hurst (right) added.
“You walk through to the boardroom at St James’
Park and there are pictures of the displays that I put on, that makes me feel really proud but when you go in there and are promised things that are never delivered in terms of fan engagement – it makes you think ‘well are we being used’ in some respect here.
“I’ve spoken to Lee Charnley and people who work for him, spent many many hours through emails, phone calls and meetings to try and get a genuine fan engagement process in place – where is it? Yes, there’s been a pandemic and it’s difficult for football clubs but others, and not just in the Premier League, but up and down the Football League have at least looked like they’re interested in what football fans have got to say.
“This is three years in the planning. Something we have given serious attention to – spoken to hundreds, if not thousands, of fans and those who have been involved in fan ownership to make sure we get this right.
“It’s a long-term thing.
“We think we deserve some sort of seat at the table in terms of how the club is run and the best way we’ve got to achieve that is by turning up with some money, and try to work with new owners as minority stakeholders.”
Given Mike Ashley’s current valuation of the club, the NUST’S aim is to raise least £3m to buy a 1% stake – something Hurst thinks is achievable.
“That’s a long way away from where we need to be but this is a long term project and we have already 1,000 people who have decided to pledge,” he said.
“We are confident it is realistic. If you can convince 10,000 or 20,000 people to give you some money every month, that will soon start to end up.”