NUFC FANS UTD MEETING
Irish Club, Tuesday 18th February 2014NEWCASTLE UNITED WOMEN'S FOOTBALL CLUB
NEWCASTLE UNITED WOMEN'S FOOTBALL CLUB (NUWFC)
The meeting began with an introduction to Lee Devlin and Ed Hindle of NUWFC. Lee then took the floor and presented an overview of how the club is developing. Previously a sponsor of the club, Lee has taken on the role of chairman of the club after the last chairman stepped down due to ill health. As chairman, Lee has overseen the implementation of a new structure within the club to help drive the club forward. A new board has been formed with representation from all sections of the club, including fans and players. This means that each board member has a different area of expertise, which benefits the club and is working well.
NUWFC is a separate club to NUFC and is not funded by them. The use of the name Newcastle United and the club crest is used with NUFC’s permission. As part of this agreement they cannot alter the shirt sponsors as NUFC do not want any other sponsors associated with the shirt. In the past this has meant that NUWFC have had to play in shirts bearing the name NUFC’s sponsor who have not sponsored NUWFC. However, since taking over sponsorship of NUFC, Wonga have contributed £4,000 towards NUWFC’s kit costs and £1,000 towards travel costs. Wonga’s involvement was instigated at the suggestion of NUFC Fans United in response to the perceived intransigence of the clubs' previous sponsor Virgin Money towards supporting the endeavours of NUWFC.
Lee went on to explain that in recent years the relationship between NUFC and NUWFC had broken down, but NUWFC are in the process of re-establishing relations. NUFC have been a ‘massive help’, allowing NUWFC to have collection buckets before the West Brom home game which raised £2,000. NUWFC have also recently had the use of the training barn at Darsley Park, enabling them to hold indoor training during poor weather.
As NUFC do not fund NUWFC, the club relies a lot on sponsors, who have helped fund full training and travelling kits. However, the players have to pay to play for NUWFC – a signing on fee of £100 and a further £25 per month in subs. As many of the players are students, the club and players would like to find a way that these costs can be removed. NUWFC are at a disadvantage as other clubs with better funding do not have this problem, but at present to remove the costs would leave a funding gap of £14,000. Lee would like to encourage more sponsors to come forward to help out.
NUWFC have built links with the Newcastle United Foundation to develop girls’ football from Primary School age up to 16 years old. After this age many of NUWFC’s have gone on to Sunderland’s women’s team to develop further as they are in the elite FA Women’s Super League, one level above NUWFC who play in the FA Women’s Premier League. However, NUWFC have a 5 year plan to achieve Super League status and be able to keep hold of players they develop. Lee said that several players have already turned down the opportunity to play for Sunderland and have stayed with NUWFC due to the vision they have, but Lee stressed that in order to achieve the vision, the club needs supporting and funding.
Lee went on to explain that pitch hire at Northumbria University’s Coach Lane campus costs 25% of the club’s annual budget. Due to the club’s Premier League status, their venue has to reach certain FA standards, and that suitable, available venues that meet this criteria are very limited. On top of this, although the Newcastle United Foundation allows NUWFC to use their mini buses at reduced costs, however with players, coaches and kit, the mini buses are cramped and many away matches mean journeys of about 4 hours. Coach hire is expensive – about £600 per day, so without extra help or funding in this area, to do this for every game is not possible.
Lee hoped that Newcastle fans would help to promote NUWFC on social media. Their Twitter account is @NUWFCOfficial and they also have a Facebook page, while the website, www.NUWFC.com receives 12,000 visits a month. Adding extra followers helps support the team and also helps the club with free or reduced cost services. Matchday support is also important and Lee hoped particularly those NUFC fans who are boycotting NUFC matches would lend NUWFC their support. They play at Northumbria University’s Coach Lane Campus, with most matches taking place on Sunday afternoons. Admission costs £2-3 for an adult (with a programme included) and £1 for children.
Lee appealed for help from anyone willing to sponsor or offer their services. He also stressed that NUWFC are willing to give back in any way they can. A number of the players hold coaching badges and coach junior teams. They would be willing to arrange coaching sessions.
NUFC Fans United have offered NUWFC a regular slot to promote themselves in future editions of our Number 9 Fanzine.
FOOTBALL SUPPORTERS' FEDERATION (FSF)
Michael Brunskill of the FSF attended to provide some information on the Federation which has 500,000 affiliated and individual members. The FSF currently has three strong campaigns. These are Safe standing, which the Football League have now backed and are currently in the process of lobbying the government and FA, Twenty’s Plenty the initiative to limit away ticket prices to £20, and Watching Football’s Not A Crime which provides help and support to fans who have had issues with police or stewards. The FSF also run ‘Fan Embassies’ for travelling supporters at England and Wales away games.
They also deal with a number of other issues such as concerns fans of many clubs have over secondary ticketing sites such as Viagogo and Stubhub.
Michael also explained that the FSF support satellite campaigns that relate to specific clubs. A recent example of this was their support to Newcastle and Sunderland fans who opposed Northumbria Police’s plans to make the derby a ‘bubble match’. Nufc Fans United is affiliated to the FSF.
The FSF is free to join and receives funding from the FA and Premier League. Their website is www.fsf.org.uk and can be followed on twitter @THE_FSF.
Six fan representatives of the fans’ forum were in attendance to offer their opinions of how the forum is progressing. To date there have been two meetings with the third scheduled to take place on February 24th.
The representatives felt that progress is being made, as previously there had been no communication between the supporters and club for years. The representatives feel that they have been able to raise questions relating to the big issues at the club, although they admit that the answers have not always been what fans would want to hear. The representatives feel that the forum is the only route open at the moment to allow supporters to engage with the club.
The NUST and NCJ (Chronicle and Journal) bans were raised by the forum who have ‘to a man and woman’ all called for NUST’s reinstatement to the forum and felt that NUFC’s reaction was ‘heavy handed’ and that the club should have issued NUST with a ‘yellow card’.
It was revealed that the FSF had raised the issue of NUST’s ban with NUFC but have yet to receive a reply. As has been expressed at previous Fans United meetings there was a feeling that NUST’s actions has undermined the forum and one NUST member in attendance was angry that NUST have not apologised for their actions and therefore have lost a degree of credibility. A number of people in attendance felt that NUST should make a gesture of reconciliation to attempt to get reinstated. With 771 paying members, NUST has the biggest membership of any NUFC fan group and therefore the club should recognise them as integral and representative.
A question from the floor asked the representatives present if there are fan representatives who attend the Fans’ Forum but don’t contribute. It was felt by the representatives that this may be the case; which a number of people found to be disappointing. It was pointed out however that only two forums had taken place so far and that members were just beginning to “find their feet”.
Some concern was voiced regarding the fact that the representatives have to be contacted via the club’s website. Lee Marshall from NUFC who was in attendance as an observer stated that this is because NUFC have a duty of care to the representatives and protects their personal details and email addresses. Every issue that is raised is forwarded on to the representatives. However there was a feeling that some fans might be reluctant to raise issues if they have to do so via the club’s official website.
In general it was felt that certain fanzines are attempting to undermine the forum and denigrate the people on it. It was pointed out that those on the forum were simply normal fans who were doing their best to encourage open dialogue with the club despite off the field actions that question the clubs motives. Many felt that there are the ‘nuts and bolts’ issues to be raised.
Although the forum is still in its early days, some expressed that there is a feeling of ‘us v them’ may build up between those on the forum and those attending from the football cub as external forces continue their vitriolic disproval of the forum. There is a need for the fans and club to work together as ‘the tide is turning’ with fans becoming apathetic with a ‘stale’ club that has ‘no ambition’. Fans need to hear about the positive things the club does rather than tweets about club shop merchandise. The club also needs to be held to account when fans themselves feel that their support is being undermined. Some also felt that the forum is merely ‘going through the motions of democracy’ but risked becoming flawed by perceived ‘dictatorship at the top’; all good points that need to be taken heed of by the club via the forum.
One person felt hurt by Pardew’s comments thanking Joe Kinnear, describing it as ‘a kick in the teeth for fans’ and felt it was a bad decision and asked wanted to know who was responsible for making Pardew say this. This comment was wholeheartedly supported by many in attendance.
As regular attendee Graeme Cansdale of the Mike Ashley Out campaign has recently been elected on to the board of the Trust, it was noted that this could be viewed as having a representative of NUST in attendance at the meeting. NUFC Fans United hope that all supporters groups can work together and build relationships in the interests of the club and the supporters. Once again and as with previous meetings, an invitation to attend had been offered to the NUST chairman but he had not followed up the offer presented. Hopefully in future and in a new era of reconciliation their Chairman will take up the offer presented to him and attend future Nufc Fans Utd meetings.
DISABLED SUPPORTER BANNED
Earlier this month there was an article in the Chronicle about a disabled supporter who had had her season ticket taken off her for giving her son her ticket for a game she couldn’t attend. Following this, Gareth Beard, Newcastle United Disabled Supporters Association’s (NUDSA) representative on the forum for NUDSA’s provided the meeting with written opinion on the matter. Gareth was not in attendance at the meeting but his statement was read out. In it, Gareth stated that in their opinion NUFC were justified in the action that they had taken for a number of reasons. Firstly, no club is legally obliged to offer concessionary tickets to disabled fans and NUFC are one of only five clubs to do so. Secondly, NUFC offer concessionary tickets to disabled supporters in receipt of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP) at the Middle or Higher rate. The individual concerned did not meet the qualifying conditions but the club had still allowed her a concessionary ticket despite not being in the qualifying group. Therefore, in their opinion the individual abused the club’s generosity. It was felt that the individual should have contacted the club prior to the game to make them aware of the situation and offered to pay the full price of the ticket for the game concerned. NUDSA feel that the Chronicle article did not report the full facts. Some attendees wondered if the Chronicle’s reporting had been influenced by the ban imposed on NCJ by NUFC. There was also a feeling that NUFC could have handled this better and instead of banning the individual outright, could NUFC not have offered the option for the individual to pay the full price for the match, with the ban being imposed if she refused?
There was a call for pitch invasions to be deplored, one reason being that this could have a negative impact on the issue of safe standing. It was argued that pitch invasions make supporters look irresponsible and that football supporters need to show self-discipline and demonstrate they can be trusted.
SEASON TICKET CANCELLATIONS
This has been an emotive issue for many NUFC fans over the past few weeks and it was suggested that as many are making their decisions to cancel their season ticket based on a range of matters not unconnected to our on field performances and lack of transfer activity in the last two transfer windows. A suggestion was put forward that NUFC offer an amnesty for any season ticket holder who cancels but then rethinks their actions between now and the start of next season. There are many fans who have built up loyalty points over many years who have now cancelled their season tickets and stand to lose all of their points. By offering such an amnesty the club may make some of these people feel that they are valued supporters.
Regarding the cancellation deadline of January 31, NUFC Blog Shite Seats received an email from a fan who has discovered that NUFC had changed the deadline date in their terms and conditions from February 28 to January 31, but had not sent out any notifications regarding this change. Therefore fans on the 10 year deal who wish to cancel can legally still cancel up to February 28.
DEFENDERS REUNION / FAIRS CLUB EVENTS
A ‘Fairs Club’ event takes place on Thursday 27th February at the Barking Dog Social Club in Wallsend. The night will see ex Newcastle and Rangers players reminisce about the 1969 ‘Battle of Britain’ semi-final encounter between the two clubs.
This years’ Black and White Reunion focuses on defenders. Confirmed to attend so far are John Beresford, Steve Howey, Darren Peacock, John Anderson, Olivier Bernard, Peter Jackson, Irving Natrass and David Craig. The event takes place at the Lancastrian Suite in Dunston on May 18th. Tickets on sale priced £22.50 (entry only) or £37.50 (meet and greet, photo and Sunday Lunch) for details click here.
Former NUFC captain Bob Moncur is currently poorly in hospital. NUFC Fans United would like to send our best wishes to Bob for a speedy recovery.
SUNDAY EXPRESS BAN
It was noted that news earlier in the day had broken that NUFC had banned the Sunday Express over an article which the club felt was ‘completely untrue’. A view was expressed that it was poor of the club to ban the Sunday Express on these grounds when the Sports Direct News website have also printed NUFC-related stories that are also untrue but have as yet not been banned.
A number of fans were upset that the death of former NUFC player Nigel Walker was not marked by the club in any formal way before the recent game against Tottenham.
Lee Marshall stated that in future the club are looking into the possibility of having one designated match per season where by all ex NUFC players, managers, coaches, staff and fans who have passed away over the course of the year would be remembered with a minute’s silence.