Re: Newcastle United Football Club Takeover
Thanks for getting in touch with such a well thought out letter. It's good to see fans coming together and making your voice heard. Newcastle's fans have a superb track record of standing up to racism in the game, and the generosity in supporting our food banks shows our region's character.
The proposed takeover of Newcastle United raises a lot of issues. There's a frustration with the way the Premier League has handled the bid. There are concerns about investment in our region. And, of course, there are hopes about investment in the club so we can see on-the-pitch success return to St James' Park.
Let's be really honest here, the reason feelings are running so deep about this takeover is because the current owner is so profoundly unpopular. Fans desperately need some good news.
NUFC has a great history, and a passionate fan base. Success on the pitch raises the spirits of our city. We need an owner who has ambition for the club, and who takes fans seriously.
But if this recent saga has confirmed anything, it's that the ownership of football clubs is precarious.
I remember Chronicle articles from back in June 2007 where fans were saying Mike Ashley's takeover was good news, because we'd now have the financial muscle to compete for the top four. He was buying rounds for Toon fans in the Blu Bamboo in the Bigg Market. There was optimism about his ownership. We all know the catalogue
of what's happened since, including the decision to rename St James' Park "The Sports Direct Arena".
That's why I think it's important to be honest with you - we should not tie our region's prosperity to something as volatile as the ownership of the football club, or it’s on the pitch success. We've been heartbroken too many times. My job is to provide the most sustainable future we can.
That's why as Mayor I've invested £2.6 million into the Newcastle United Foundation's Murray House project, supported by Shola Ameobi. This facility will provide a community hub, support local kids into work, and fund engagement and outreach work across the whole North of Tyne.
We've put £37 million into a Green New Deal, to get the offshore renewables industries along the Tyne and Blyth buzzing. That includes £2 million to retrain workers from fossil fuel industries into low-carbon jobs - it's important no one gets left behind. And £10 million to develop local low carbon businesses.
We're investing £23 million a year into skills funding, so our people can get better jobs. We're putting £10 million into attracting businesses here, including the 1000 jobs Verisure have already announced. There are many more in the pipeline.
Another £10 million is going into boost our fast-growing digital industry to create more jobs. We're putting £24 million into developing housing on brownfield sites, creating more affordable homes, keeping the greenbelt green, and creating jobs.
We've allocated £6 million to develop a cultural and events programme, including £3.5 million to boost tourism. This will be adapted to work in a post-Covid environment.
Everything we're doing is underpinned by our Good Work Pledge, which guarantees proper wages and fair employment. All told this will boost our local economy by £billions and create many thousands of good jobs here.
This is just the start. We're facing tough times because of the Covid-recession. I'm spending pretty much every minute of the day trying to wring extra funds and devolved powers from central government, including £600 million for transport, to address the decades long under investment in the North East.
Regarding the protracted delays by the Premier League on the consortium takeover, I'm afraid I only know what is already in the public domain. My understanding is that initially there were concerns about TV piracy, and later a lack of clarity about who would be the beneficial owners. What the truth of these matters is, I'm afraid I don't know any more than you do. The lack of information coming from the club and the Premier League is disrespectful of fans.
I've supported Chi Onwurah to carry the baton on this issue in her role as the MP who covers St James' Park. She's raised petitions, asked questions and lobbied the
Premier League. Just like a good football team, there's no point in everybody chasing the ball. I'm fully supportive of Chi, and think she's doing a cracking job on it. I've liaised with Chi on this, and I've signed the petition. I'm in touch with Chi again, to see if I can help further.
Just to clear up a point. You refer to a letter from a member of the North of Tyne cabinet, which in fact came from Pat Ritchie, who is not a member of NTCA cabinet, but is the Chief Executive of Newcastle City Council.
You are absolutely right to say that investment opportunities exist independently of the club ownership. The East Pilgrim Street development has been in the public domain long before the proposed NUFC takeover. The land is already owned by the Reuben brothers. As for the architecture question about planning permission, given that this is a live investment proposition, I have to remain impartial. This is to prevent any subsequent legal challenges around predetermination.
Certainly, some planning permission has already been granted. I'd advise using Newcastle City Council's planning portal for the latest updates, and to submit any comments on applications.
Regardless of our wider economy, Newcastle United's on-the-pitch success is important for its own sake. Football is a cornerstone of our culture. Newcastle United is a great club with a proud history.
The Premier League and club owners must remember who, ultimately, funds the game. It's not club owners - it's the fans who buy season tickets, buy merchandise and pay for TV subscriptions. I think fans deserve a bigger say in how football should be run. If you're running any campaigns to give fans a bigger voice in the game, I'll be happy to add my voice and support you.
All the best
Mayor, North of Tyne Combined Authority