Perspective: On The Fans United Meeting And Its Legacy

Stu Forster

Following the appointment of Joe Kinnear as Director of Football, the unrest within the Toon Army boiled vigorously to the surface. A meeting was held - are we better today for it?

I will start this with a small confession: Living 4,545 miles (give or take) from Newcastle, I perhaps had not done my ground work to understand exactly who Fans United are or what the real purpose of the meeting that they sponsored would have been. I consciously decided to rely on today's sturdy, reliable bastions of information dissemination -Twitter and the Associated Internets - to know what was going on. As such, I may have misunderstood or misinterpreted or at least not anticipated what the result of this meeting would be. I had hoped that the momentum built up from the feelings regarding the Kinnear appointment would be harnessed and driven in a constructive manner. I'm not here to say that they weren't, specifically.

From what I can tell, it started out as something similar to what you might have hoped for. Questions were collected by representatives of the club. The night was never likely to be a pure dialogue - especially within the current structure of information control within the club. Even still, getting the club's ear in one form or another and getting some answers that would (ostensibly) be used to establish a common ground to start from in bringing the club and the supporters closer together was a positive development - perhaps even best-case scenario from the night.

Dissent, disagreement and missteps were sure to figure in some form through the night. Newcastle support are notoriously passionate and not afraid of their convictions - in fact this very trait may have undone any good to have come from the meeting - or speaking on those convictions. It did not help that Eddie McIntyre (a former Newcastle schoolboy player!) was the appointed representative sent in lieu of Joe Kinnear to tell the fans "Get off of Joe's back and give him a chance." It went over about as you would have expected. In spite of Steve Wraith needing to step in to stop the crowd from chucking pointed verbal barbs at McIntyre, you still would have had hope that there would be a net gain from the night.

This house declares that Mike Ashley is not a fit and proper custodian of a footballing institution that has a proud history and tradition, and enjoys one of the biggest and most fervent followings in European football. --Resolution passed by NUFC Fans United

Ultimately, the meeting would be overrun by the obligatory escalating disagreement phenomenon of public meetings - again something that would not have been entirely unexpected, but NUFC Fans United, on the proposed movement by Graeme Cansdale of the Mike Ashley Out Campaign, adopted a resolution calling for Mike Ashley to sell the club immediately. You can read the full text of the resolution in this article from The Chronicle. The relative merits and drawbacks of an immediate sale by Mike Ashley were discussed on the Twitter following the meeting. It should not be forgotten that the club are "in to" Mike Ashley for a rather sizable sum of money that he would doubtlessly call due in the event of a sale and as such a sale of the club would be somewhat implausible in the first place. This is not meant to be a should he-shouldn't he sell discussion (at least from my end here). It is meant to say exactly this:

If we assume or even allow for earnest attempts to open communication between the club (Mike Ashley) and the supporters, the end result of yesterday's meeting is exactly worst-case scenario. "Thanks for allowing us your ear to get some questions answered! LOLGTFO!!!!!!" Perhaps I'm just not thick-skinned enough, but from my perspective, this "main issue being asked" answers itself in the lasting story of the meeting. The meeting in and of itself was hosted by NUFC Fans United - a group that by its own admission was started to be anti-Ashley:

Originally NUFC Fans United was set up by two of us with the stated aim of “providing a hub for all anti-Ashley groups”... Once more and more people got involved I saw it as a natural progression to move from being purely ant-Ashley to being more about engaging with his regime. I am a ranter you see, but I’m also a pragmatist - and the way I see it is, at the moment we’re “stuck” with Mike Ashley; so what do we do? Do we continue to rabble-rouse and call for boycotts and protests - or do we try and engage? The pragmatist is me, says engage.

--From the meeting wrap up on nufcfansutd.com

Embedded in this statement is a hope that the group would "move from being purely anti-Ashley to being more about engaging with his regime." It is one thing to wonder why an owner might not communicate with you when you have attempted in good faith to communicate on a meaningful, constructive level. When your lovely silken glove that has been extended is actually filled with buckshot so that you can beat your "partner in communication" with it in the form of a GET OUT edict, it seems a tad like cutting your nose off to spite your face... and then complaining that you can't then smell the roses.

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