As a rank and file member of the Newcastle United Supporters Trust, the e-mail containing the details of those who have put themselves up for election to the NUST board dropped into my in-box this morning.
I haven’t read it yet but before I go any further, as one supporter and Trust member, I’d like to place on record my thanks for all of the hard work board members have put in over a period of time which has been challenging for everyone personally, let alone as followers of Newcastle United.
Every member of the Trust board is a volunteer and donates their time free and without any expectation of reward or recognition.
In the last 12 months, the Trust has launched Pledge 1892 with the public support of none other than Alan Shearer, Warren Barton and attracted active support of respected journalist George Caulkin of The Athletic. Its credibility has been further burnished by the support it has garnered from every serious Newcastle watcher who recognises the long term value of such a project.
— True Faith: Newcastle United Fanzine and Podcast (@tfNUFC) July 29, 2021
As we go into another Ashley season of under-investment, Steve Bruce as Head Coach and no end to the takeover saga in sight, it is right that the Supporters Trust is preparing us all for the worst –namely that the club crashes and burns as many have feared it will for years. We have to be ready to pick up the pieces in that event.
On a similar theme, NUST was prominent amongst similarly constituted organisations to be fully engaged in the fan-led review of football governance and the Chair, the Rt. Hon. Tracey Crouch has made several complimentary comments regards the quality of representations made by NUST to her and her team.
Additionally, last year, NUST met with the Premier League to discuss matters more widely but also got themselves in front of Richard masters and presented our case regards the takeover and the interminable delays it faced.
At the same meeting, NUST represented the concerns of supporters whose money was still being taken from bank accounts via direct debits for season ticket payments despite professional football not being played in front of supporters.
Newcastle United’s default position of ignoring supporters was challenged by NUST and the PL, to their credit forced Charnley to address the concerns of season ticket holders.
None of that would have happened without a correctly constituted, democratically accountable supporters’ organisation.
If anyone can point to a similar organisation that has been as active anywhere in the UK over the last 12 months then I will show my big white spotty Geordie arse in Fenwick’s window.
— True Faith: Newcastle United Fanzine and Podcast (@tfNUFC) July 28, 2021
NUST’s power and influence is growing because of the massive membership it has generated on the back of disaffection with the running of Newcastle United.
A time will come in the near future at the current rate where NUST will have more members than Newcastle United will have season ticket holders.
I’m also going to further thank everyone on the NUST board for their forbearance, patience and understanding.
As a group of supporters we have become volatile and bitter. The grinding misery of Ashley at our club has changed us.
Where once our support was known for its indefatigable exuberance, passion and good humour we now support a club where even the simple deed of buying a ticket for the game or a piece of club merchandise is compromised by what this man has done to our club.
That results in some very unhappy supporters being quick to point the finger and having expectations of NUST which are way out of kilter with reality.
I can say as a former NUST-member and one of a few who put money into support the creation of the NUST predecessor, NUSC (along with The Mag and NUFC.COM) that it is sometimes the unacceptable behaviour of fellow supporters which eats up so much valuable time and acts as a distraction to the main event – making things better for supporters.
I have seen previous board members respond differently to what at times is abuse and harassment. For hard-faced bastards such as myself, it is water off a duck’s back but others are upset and baffled by the vitriol coming from people who support the same club, share the same stands and have been through the same highs and lows of Newcastle United over many years.
— True Faith: Newcastle United Fanzine and Podcast (@tfNUFC) July 22, 2021
Those guilty of this abuse and harassment obviously don’t think they are behaving badly. In their world they are being straight-talking and forthright. I’d ask them if they would be thrilled about their families and friends being on the end of such assaults.
That’s not to say NUST shouldn’t be held to account. Of course it absolutely should. It is the only supporters’ organisation we have ever had which has been and is. But holding it to account isn’t shouting poison down the ether in either written or other form.
Holding NUST to account isn’t about who can shout the loudest or who has the biggest following on social media.
The beauty of the NUST is that all supporters are equal. Everyone must follow the same processes and NUST does not serve the interests of any individual at all.
It can be tough for some I know and without betraying any confidences I was aware of one previous NUST member who was targeted in a most insidious and vicious of ways which resulted in that person walking away from supporter activism altogether. I think we, as a collective group of supporters were the poorer for as a result.
I believe that person was bullied out of being an active NUST board member in a horrible and disgusting manner.
There are people on the current board I know well.
New Online – Scott Robson remembers The Pink – at one time, the only media available reporting on NE football and indeed all sport – the highlight of Saturday nights/Sunday mornings – https://t.co/UYYcU8WZQ7 #NUFC
— True Faith: Newcastle United Fanzine and Podcast (@tfNUFC) July 23, 2021
At the risk of embarrassing him, I’d say Alex Hurst has been the most significant figure in NUST history (okay since 2010). His vision, energy, understatement and competence has transformed the Trust. He has re-energised it in quite a profound manner. I’m proud to call Alex a friend (I am your friend Alex, aren’t I?) but over the time I’ve known him my admiration for him as grown. His patience and integrity is second to none.
I don’t think you can talk about the Newcastle United Supporters Trust without name-checking Colin Whittle.
Colin has done the heavy lifting for the Trust in its formative years, working to implement the necessary constitutional foundation upon which the Trust is now built. That was largely detailed work conducted away from You Tube channels or twitter accounts but which has been absolutely vital.
There are other good, hard-working people for whom I have great admiration – Norman Watson, Peter Fanning, Andrew Harrison back in my time and others.
I can’t say everyone has made a positive contribution but to my knowledge there’s no-one on that board now who’s a wrong’un.
As well as Alex, I know Charlotte Robson from her great contributions to TF as well as Marc Corby who I know who are fully engaged with NUST. They both do lots with TF but that’s not a qualification to be an NUST board member.
I barely know Greg Tomlinson, Linda Bush and Thomas Concannon but every time I hear them speak or read their words I can’t fail to be impressed. Alex, I know always represents us well in the media.
New TF contributor, Lee Forster I believe wishes to stand for the Board. I don’t know Lee beyond his contributions for TF but he is always cogent, rational and it goes without saying he’s a devoted supporter.
So, what makes a good Trust board member?
This is just my opinion. There are plenty others.
— True Faith: Newcastle United Fanzine and Podcast (@tfNUFC) July 27, 2021
Well, first things first. Being a good board member isn’t a pissing competition to decide who the best supporter is, who can shout the loudest on the Gallowgate, has the required level of “passion”, been to the most away games or is more Black & White than you or I.
Obviously a love and concern for Newcastle United is a fundamental principle to be a board member but there are other qualities.
Working with others
Those who fancy themselves to go on the board and be great disruptors, making all kinds of demands and through force of personality (usually translated as having the biggest gob) take us to the promised land of free beer and Newcastle United winning trophies.
Whoever becomes a board member has to work with others, accept the majority view and put the graft in like everyone else. They will have to work in a collegiate manner. You aren’t there to shout your mouth off.
Respect the Trust
If anyone is successful in joining the Board they will have to abide by a code of conduct which respects Trust members and the rest of the board.
You should also respect the Trust membership. They are who you represent and that’s not the noise on social media, the mad keen Mag at work or your mates down the pub. It’s the fee-paying membership and no-one else.
You have to respect every Trust member – even the overly earnest ones writing meandering blogs for fanzines.
— True Faith: Newcastle United Fanzine and Podcast (@tfNUFC) July 26, 2021
Are you capable?
The skills the Trust requires are many. The current board made such a strong impression upon the Government’s taskforce because it was articulate, intelligent and its presentations were professionally executed. You up for that? Because if you make a fucking arse of it and the Trust by association then expect to be tanned by the membership.
Will you be able to lead work such as this? Represent the Trust potentially to the Premier League, the club, politicians of various stripe and government?
Do you know how things work? Can you listen as well as speak?
What added value do you bring to the NUST? Do you have skills in IT, design, management, law, accountancy, organisation etc? Can you write press and media briefings?
Do you have integrity?
If you are getting involved in NUST to work some kind of angle – financial or to raise your profile for some other motive then forget it. If you want to use NUST so you can have tea and biscuits with Lee Charnley every third Wednesday of the month and feel as if you are a master of the universe then being a board member isn’t for you.
The Trust is a collective endeavour. It’s not for individual gain in any way shape or form.
If you have an ego or public profile that needs feeding, I suggest you save a bit of time and leave NUST alone.
Do you have drive and determination?
You are going to need it. I think NUST will be receptive to ideas – indeed, new board members will have a responsibility to deliver on what you have promised in your election statement. You will need to argue your case politely, win support and the chances are you’ll need to crack on with it, do the work and report back on what you’ve done.
Don’t worry, I’m just about done.
In a decade NUST has had its ups and downs. It’s not perfect and it has made mistakes. It is still a very young organisation finding its way.
But even in the last decade it has notable achievements.
It dragged Ashley’s abysmal sale of the Strawberry Place lease into the sunlight. Without NUST that would have happened in the shadows. Nonse of us could stop that but it exposed for the man he is – a leech.
NUST was absolutely central to Northumbria Police’s planned bubble trips for the derby matches. With others NUST kicked that into touch.
NUST played a full and active part in the FSA’s Twenty’s Plenty campaign to reduce ticket prices for away games which succeeded in bringing away tickets under some kind of price control.
NUST worked closely with FSA to develop its political strategy and the fruits of that are hopefully going to be realised if Crouch’s interim recommendations grow legs and are implemented.
NUST was strongly supportive of the development of the NUFC Fans Foodbank. Indeed Colin Whittle is a regular on the bucket outside the Gallowgate End. But special tribute must go to the lasses who quietly get on with the business of the Foodbank as volunteers without any craving for publicity or recognition.
New season up and coming with lots to discuss – TRUE FAITH will be covering the club in every way as we have done since 1999 – this exists as a platform for ALL fan opinions – Join us – https://t.co/4b3s4UJFRd #NUFC
— True Faith: Newcastle United Fanzine and Podcast (@tfNUFC) July 26, 2021
I’ll be having a looking at the candidates for NUST election. I think it is fantastic that this process is developing amongst our support despite some worthless white noise that is more about a craving for attention than anything constructive.
But whichever way the elections go for anyone I do really want to sincerely thank every NUST board member for their contribution to make things better.
I’d also like to encourage those who might join the board and wish them all the best.
Keep On, Keepin’ On …