It is the first away game of the season and no tougher assignment than a trip to the home of the treble winning Premier League and Champions League winners, Manchester City. It’s a nutty kick-off time at 8pm on a Saturday night with supporters from the North East not getting home the same day they left the house.
The added complication to the day for Mags travelling to The Etihad is what is in my opinion, some completely over the top measures to combat what the club believes to be ticket touting and a misuse of the loyalty scheme.
Misuse of the loyalty scheme is a contentious issue without a great deal of hard evidence it is a big issue, given pre-takeover many games went to zero points. I’m fond of describing travelling away to see United play as dependent upon an eco-system of relationships between fans which sustain supporters’ buses that have taken people to away games for decades as well as ensured away ends at the other end of the country have been filled by exiles and provided support to the team in some very lean years.
Ticket touting is wrong. I loathe it and will support measures to stop it. But random ID checks conducted in the draconian style of totalitarian states is way over the top. It is a sledge hammer to crack a nut.
There are big problems with what United has described here and I question if those drafting these diktats have much experience of going to away games and in particular understand the lay-out of The Etihad, the need for segregation, security and associated palaver of standing in a queue in a cramped, fenced-off, dark area, being patted down for security purposes with dogs sniffing out drugs? Away games are the pursuit of the totally committed.
I would urge those employed by United within the Supporters Liaison structure to be at The Etihad, at the entrance to the away end on Saturday night and report back their findings.
We all know the majority of football grounds fill up about 20 minutes before KO. Imagine getting to a turnstile and being prevented from entering despite holding a ticket you have paid good money for and then having to go to a ticket office at the other side of the stadium, perhaps wearing club colours as home fans make their way to their seats? Likely missing a good chunk of the game? It does not make any sense. Imagine if your mobility is limited or you have a health concern? Imagine if you are a woman on your own?
The club is now giving a de-facto instruction to Newcastle United fans travelling to away games to carry forms of ID with them and photographic evidence of who they are but have not said what will suffice. Is it really the case perfectly law-abiding, loyal supporters need to take a current pass-port or driving licence with them to go to a football match?
We are not a country with an ID card system and previous governments have considered and rejected adopting such a regime on grounds of civil liberties.I’m told this has become common practice at festivals and other live events. I’m told that but my lived experience is never having to take a form of ID to a gig or being inconvenienced in the way set out by United in the way described in their release today (17/Aug/23).
I have been going to see Newcastle United play home and away for 50+ years and have not once been asked to prove my identity. I’ve been to dozens of gigs and never been asked to prove who I am.
But here we are in 2023 with supporters who are too often the victims of touts and scammers being treated as though they are the problem.
Darren Eales (Ch Exec) has claimed he wants United to engage with supporters. They are very warm words. But I wonder who the club has engaged with to get these arrangements signed off.
It certainly isn’t anyone from the Newcastle United Supporters Trust (click here) who is on the record as expressing satisfaction with how the system works currently. The Trust is our club’s only democratically constituted, fan-led organisation. NUST has played no part in supporting this.
United picked a bad day to land this given so many of United’s hard-core away support feel victimised and potentially inconvenienced by these measures.
Point me in the direction of any serious fan media who think United’s arrangements for Saturday night or workable or desirable.
Think again United otherwise going to support Newcastle United is going to turn into a ballache for some of the most committed supporters the club has.
Keep On, Keepin’ On …
Michael Martin, @TFMick1892