Chronicles

This is it, Newcastle fans – the chance to finally change things

This is it, Newcastle fans. This feels like the chance we’ve been waiting more than a decade for.

The 1892 Pledge arrives at a crossroads in the club’s modern history – as the toxicity around the club and Mike Ashley’s cursed ownership threatens to tear bonds which should be passed through the generations.

10,000 season ticket holders abandoned the club last season. Many thousands more feel disillusioned at the way Ashley and his executives operate.

The pledge feels like the antidote to that poison – a chance for something positive to come from the mess that Newcastle has become.

Hopefully, it doesn’t polarise opinion like boycotts, walk outs and protests have done. For whatever reason those efforts have had varying degrees of success – and often emboldened the people in charge that it is a noisy, online minority who want something different.

It’s understandable. Many don’t want to hurt their club but the truth is the Premier League is now a competition where the likes of Newcastle can bank TV money without accountability to their supporters.

It is months since the last fans forum. They’ve never held them in public and every event has only been publicised by pre-agreed minutes that are released days after the Forum.

So here is a chance to do something constructive and show that not only do Newcastle fans believe Ashley is wrong, but they’re willing to unify behind a cause which can be positive for all supporters.

It is the lightening rod for everyone who wants to see a better Newcastle and the beauty of it is, any fan can contribute whatever they can afford and still be part of it.

The Chronicle, you’ll not be surprised to hear, fully endorses it. We have sought many of the assurances that fans will do before backing it. And the transparency of the Trust – which is run by members, for members – is a breath of fresh air.

These are fans of the club, putting in time and their own money to make this work. Alex Hurst and the Trust have been working on this for years – driven by a belief that there must be a way to effect positive change.

“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,” Alex told me this week.

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

“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.”

It must have been difficult to stay quiet when Rio Ferdinand goaded fans by asking why they weren’t clubbing together to buy out Ashley.

The answer is that the league has become such a capitalist behemoth that no fan – or collective – could now hope to match the sky high asking prices. Ferdinand’s ignorance was to realise that the game that made him rich was now so detached from the people who love it that his very suggestion was an insult.

But here is an alternative: a chance to slowly build a fan-powered movement that can have the last laugh over Ashley, Lee Charnley and the likes of Ferdinand, who see Newcastle fans as suckers.

“It was a timely intervention but the idea that fans could all of a sudden put together a huge amount of money to buy the club is the opposite of what we want to do,” Alex explained.

“That also speaks to what happens if the club is unlucky enough to fall through the leagues. Often it is up to fans who have to rescue it – I think Wigan fans have been asked to put in hundreds of thousands to keep the club safe.

“I’m not saying that Newcastle will do what Sunderland did and be down in League One and have a sale for less than £5million in cash changing hands at the time of transaction. But why not be organised, just in case?

“As unlikely as it seems while the club’s in the Premier League, look at Portsmouth. Those implosions in the club aren’t uncommon.

“We would be in a position to save the club in that circumstances.”

Newcastle fans have nothing to lose and everything to gain. We couldn’t endorse this idea with more enthusiasm.

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

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