When the late Sir Bobby Robson said his piece over the state of football a few years ago, it was something that resonated with the older football fan.
They had seen the game change beyond recognition with the scenario of being packed likes sardines on terracing watching about twenty men and two goalkeepers running around a bit of grass in order to score more goals than each other to ‘safely’ seated mute fans worrying about how the accounts looked around a year and a half prior.
With the financial results well overdue this time around for Mike Ashley’s version of Newcastle United, it won’t stop the tongue wagging over what we have, what we should have and what we really should have available to spend on trying to grow the club as a whole.
The arguments will, of course, rumble on with various, correct in my eyes, views that we’re not being run with an emphasis on growth as a club but a stop off point for growing something else and others with their tainted version of an unlikely hero who has been misunderstood with his complete lack of attachment to what a football club means to folk in Ashley.
This meandering between divisions that can be described as a clever way to cap expectation levels as well as keep diverted revenue streams slightly hidden off the radar, has been described by the apologists as better than doing a Leeds, Coventry or any other club that has had financial difficulties but the majority of these have had their crash and reattached with the point of the game of football.
The fact that the fans have been recognised as the main ingredient by most is not lost in my partly twisted mind of sporting logic.
The latest doctored minutes were released earlier by Newcastle from the recent fans forum and it contained one part that I will focus on in that is part of the problem with our current ownership. An admittance of guilt so to speak that is proof that there is never going to be an attempt to try to get the club the best it can be, pound for pound, to pinch an Ashley phrase and that the fans are only of use when all usual avenues of control are exhausted by continual mistakes.
In the fans forum, a question was asked about stadium expansion, which was fair enough considering we sell out every week and many more fans won’t be able to get in not to mention a potential loss of future supporter. Lee Marshall was quoted as answering the point as the abbreviation ‘LM’ means.
The club answer was:
‘LM highlighted the club’s comments from two consecutive Fans Forums in 2014, which indicated that extending the Gallowgate would not make sense commercially and that its view was likely to remain unchanged in the short and medium term and potentially the long term. At that time, the club also stated that selling St. James’ Park to build a new stadium was not an attractive or realistic option’
When Ashley bought the club, St James’ Park had just been moved into third place by Arsenal opening their 60,000 capacity Emirates Stadium a year prior and for the varying reasons touched on above, we have slipped further still. As things stand we have the 6th biggest premier league ground now if you discount Wembley and with plans by Chelsea and Everton to enlarge as well as Spurs due to complete their overhaul of White Hart Lane in time for next season, we’re proposed to slip even further away.
If Newcastle was run to an honest degree where it was trying to be the best it could be with an honest assessment of all monies being used to speculate and accumulate then the demand would be there, it is there now on a lower scale and would easily satisfy the 61,000 capacity that an enlarged Gallowgate end would bring. I dare say with a club that challenged for titles each year that we could rival Man United’s numbers and without the great need of tourist number.
With clubs in the premier league basically being given money for nothing with the greater increase in TV and prize money compared to day dot, we can forget about the commercial viability and focus more on the reason why the club is where it is today. It’s all about the fans and that we are a football club. That fact is always forgotten.
Sir Bobby always said it best though:
What is a club in any case? Not the buildings or the directors or the people who are paid to represent it. It’s not the television contracts, get-out clauses, marketing departments or executive boxes. It’s the noise, the passion, the feeling of belonging, the pride in your city. It’s a small boy clambering up stadium steps for the very first time, gripping his father’s hand, gawping at that hallowed stretch of turf beneath him and, without being able to do a thing about it, falling in love.