The NUST’s plan, which has been dubbed ‘Barcelona on the Tyne’ by the financial community, aims to democratise the club and ensure that the ‘current situation at Newcastle United does not repeat itself’ (NUST’s words).
Fans will be able to invest in the club via a number of ‘financial opportunities’ and the money will be held in Escrow by local solicitors to provide proof of funds to Mike Ashley.
Fan ownership is of course popular on the continent, perhaps most notably at places like Barcelona and Real Madrid. At Barcelona fans pay £139/year to acquire ‘socio status’ and for that you get the right to buy the best season tickets and take part in the club’s decision-making process. There are about 172,000 ‘socios’ whose fees raise approximately £24m/year before selling any season tickets, television rights, merchandise etc.
Socios vote for a president every 4 years (soon changing to 5 years) and they can approve or reject his actions at AGMs, dispense with him in emergency situations, stand for the board and even become president themselves. The current Barca president – Joan Laporta – was simply a fan with a deep love of Johan Cruyff before being elected.
However viable fan ownership is, it’s no utopia. Laporta inherited a club in financial difficulties and one that operates with a debt that oscillates between £200m and £500m. Laporta has survived attempted coups, a walk-out by 20 members of his board, was caught using private detectives to spy on his board and – one I particularly like – courted controversy by mooning at airport police in an objection against the airport’s security checks.
Real Madrid has had problems too. It’s president – Ramon Calderon – was accused of vote rigging and intimidation before he was eventually forced to resign.
Yet both clubs are successful on the pitch, play attractive football, produce exciting players and employ top coaches.
So what of the NUST? NUST spokesman Mark Jensen said:
“We have emailed over 40,000 supporters to ask them if and how they want to buy into the campaign to lead a citywide bid to buy back the club.
“There are a number of ways supporters can buy into the model – which has been dubbed by the financial community as the ‘Barcelona on the Tyne’ – which would see a democratisation of the club to ensure that the current state of the club would not be repeated.
“The idea is based on fans investing in the club through a number of financial opportunities which will be held by a local solicitor in an escrow account to demonstrate to Ashley that the fans have proof of funds.
“Supporters will be asked to pledge 10% of their investment into this account and guaranteed that the money will be returned if the bid fails.
“It is clear that we have no knight in shining armour to end the charade at St James’ Park so we must look at how we can do this ourselves.
“The club is a fantastic investment if run properly and we aim to attract the type of investors who will seek to bring back the values of integrity and honesty to the club.
“We’ve been in discussions with serious people in the city and beyond and they have thrown down the gauntlet to supporters to lead the charge.
“We’ve been obsessed by protest but this is the ultimate protest.
“If people want more info they can visit www.nust.org.uk and find out more.
“There are a range of ways to invest, but fans can be sure that it will be on a ‘one investor one vote’ basis with fans electing six fans’ representatives through the Trust and a President who will bring in a professional team accountable to the fans ultimately.
“There are serious investors who want to back this idea because they can see the potential in the club. This is an investment which is not only ruled by the heart but by the head also.”
The NUST is soon going to launch a Business Plan which will set out the exact financial details of their venture and how it will benefit fans and investors. They’re hoping to reach a specific total of pledges over the next 6 weeks, although they’re not revealing what that total is because they ‘want to negotiate with Ashley on their terms rather than his’.
I wonder what happens if things go wrong – do we chant for ourselves to ‘get out of this town’?