Chronicles

How the major new fan bid to buy a stake in Newcastle United will work – All your questions answered

The Newcastle United Supporters Trust today launches a major pledge drive to buy a stake of the club from Mike Ashley.

It is being billed as one of the most ambitious fan initiatives in English football – and certainly in Newcastle’s recent history – as the NUST asks fans to help them build a fighting fund to purchase a stake under new owners.

Fans are being asked to unfiy behind The 1892 Pledge. Here, the NUST’s Alex Hurst answers some of the key questions that have come out of a series of focus groups surrounding the project.

How does it work?

The Trust is asking fans to donate (pledge) small amounts of money when they can to build a fund that will allow the Trust and it’s members to try and buy a part of the club if and when Mike Ashley sells it.

This will ensure at least part of the club belongs to it’s supporters. We hope that supporters, through the Trust, can play an active role in how the club is run through genuine access to owners and we’d hope at least one elected Trust representative could contribute at board level at the club.

The Newcastle United Supporters Trust have launched a bid to buy a stake in Newcastle United

The best way to ensure a healthy supporter relationship with the club and new owners is through a partnership involving shared ownership of the club.

Fans ideally can contribute easily setting up a regular direct debit payment through the 1892 Pledge website (1892pledge.co.uk) and the total of what fans have raised will be updated daily on the website.

Is this realistic?

Newcastle United fans already put tens of millions of pounds into the football club each year through ticket sales and other commercial purchases.

We are asking fans to pay a fraction of what they normally pay into a fund that ensures a part of the football club will one day belongs to them.

We aren’t asking for large sums and there is no right or wrong amount to pledge. The 1892 Pledge Scheme is open to all Newcastle United fans wherever we are in the world – we know our global fanbase will play a huge part in helping the Trust raise the money it needs to.

To buy 1% of the club in the Premier League the Trust would need to raise £3 million.

It’s is an ambitious figure but with our gigantic fanbase, paying in a little per month (or whenever they can) it is realistic. If there is any fan base that could do this it is the supporters of Newcastle United.

The Newcastle United Supporters Trust have launched a bid to buy a stake in Newcastle United
The Newcastle United Supporters Trust have launched a bid to buy a stake in Newcastle United

How long will it take?

The 1892 Pledge Scheme is a long term vision. We cannot be sure how long it will take, but the majority of Newcastle United fans have wanted a change of ownership for nearly 14 years.

We don’t think it will take anything like that length of time for the Scheme to raise the required funds. The Trust is reliant on new owners buying the club, but we want to be prepared and ready should the club be relegated and be sold for a much lower total than it would be if sold in the Premier League.

Is this just for every day fans or does it need wealthy benefactors?

We need thousands of ordinary Newcastle fans to make this happen.

We have strength in numbers. We have 14,000 members of the Trust and hundreds of thousands of committed fans across the North East, the United Kingdom and beyond.

We think Newcastle United fans are what makes the club unique and the region unique. It is those same fans who can make this happen paying in a little to the Scheme on a monthly basis.

We are asking ordinary fans to try and make a difference to the club in the future.

How would we ever compete as a fan-owned club in Premier League?

It would be highly unlikely that the Trust will ever raise the funds to buy the club outright in the Premier League because the asking price is so high.

However there have been clubs that have competed in the Premier League that have had supporters owning part of the club in Swansea City.

Currently Newcastle United is a self funding football team. The club have told fans before that it’s owner does not invest money into the team or the club’s infrastructure and the club is self-sufficient in the Premier League.

That the club is self sufficient while many fans would argue it underperforms in key commercial and sporting areas – could supporters really do any worse?

What happens to my money if this doesn’t come off?

We want to be absolutely clear that any money pledged to the1892 Pledge Scheme can only be used for two purposes.

The first is to buy shares in Newcastle United. The second, if the first option is not possible, the money will be donated to charities registered in the North East of England.

We cannot refund any money pledged to supporters but we hope supporters will appreciate their money being donated to good causes should the ability to buy a part of Newcastle United not come off.

What about the Saudi bid for the club – how does this relate to that?

The Trust enjoyed a positive relationship with Amanda Staveley in the summer of 2020 as we sough an explanation from the Premier League about why her proposed takeover had not been granted.

We would like to work with any new owner of Newcastle United. We planned to launch the 1892 Pledge Scheme in April 2020 but delayed because of the idea of the takeover by Amanda Staveley and her consortium partners.

While the Trust still backs her takeover of the club we feel it is vital to ensure supporters can have a say in the way the club is run whoever the new owners are when Mike Ashley does sell the club.

How will you get Mike Ashley to agree to sell?

We cannot influence Mike Ashley to sell the club but he has been open about his desire to sell the club and hope he finds the buyer he is looking for.

What we want to do with the 1892 Pledge Scheme is work with a new owner when the club is sold.

Mike Ashley has reported to have been trying to sell the club for 14 years so we want to get ready now to make sure we are part of any future conversation with a new owner.

Mike Ashley will not own the club forever and that is why we are asking fans to prepare now and pledge for the future.

WATCH THE 1892 PLEDGE LAUNCH VIDEO

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Why is this different from other attempts to raise money to buy the club?

The Trust is long established and since I relaunched it with a brand new board in 2019 we have attracted nearly 15,000 people to our cause.

We are an open and transparent supporters organisation. We hold democratic elections annually and have held the largest ever supporter elections in English supporter history.

We will post the total raised onto the 1892pledge.co.uk website daily so there will be complete transparency with everything we do.

Unlike the previous attempts many years ago to sell shares in the club to supporters the 1892 Pledge Scheme is not a share driven idea.

We are asking people to donate small sums to the Trust through the Scheme. To become a member of the Trust it’s only £2 to sign up and then £1 a year for membership.

As it’s the Trust itself that would buy any shares of the club, all members will be able to vote and approve any potential purchase of a part of Newcastle United.

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Who would run the club if it succeeds?

Supporter-owned does not mean supporter-run.

If the Trust was ever able to have a controlling share of Newcastle United (more likely if the Pledge Scheme was necessary to rescue the club should we suffer at least one relegation) then it would appoint talented individuals with industry experience who were solely accountable to supporters, rather than look to control the operation of the club.

Can I get my money back?

No, any money donated is final and cannot be refunded

Who controls the money when it is raised and decides if and when to donate the money to charity?

The Trust has appointed four Trustees (Ian Mearns MP, Warren Barton, George Caulkin, Lee Humble) to make sure the money is safe.

These individuals are responsible for safe keeping the money and deciding when the Scheme should be ended or paid across to buy a share in Newcastle United, however any decision they make would be put to Supporters Trust members to approve their decision.

Any decision to end the Scheme and pay the money to charities, or to pay the money to buy a part of the club would need to be approved by 50%+1 of the Trusts members.

Has a Pledge Scheme ever worked before?

Yes. Fans of Heart of Midlothian fans have raised nearly £12m through their Foundation of Hearts organisation which will allow them to buy their club.

They used the exact same ‘Pledge Scheme’ system as we are launching where fans can pledge one off or monthly amounts (by direct debit).

We have a great relationship with the Foundation of Hearts who have provided invaluable support to us to get this process off the ground.

What is the minimum you’d like to raise?

It’s hard to put exact figures on the amount as the value of the club changes depending on a number of factors (including what league we’re in!) but to buy a 1% share of the club in the Premier League it is assumed we’d need to raise at least £3 million.

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

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