Newcastle United fans are revolting!
However, writing as someone who used to be an protester and fundraiser myself in the past, not over Newcastle United but over causes such as civil liberties, racism and the like, from what I have read and seen of Newcastle United fans’ planned protests so far, the chances of success don’t seem to be that great at all. This isn’t because the protestors don’t have a case, more that the protagonists don’t seem to be protesters, quite simply, they don’t know how to do it properly. They’re more like brickies and plumbers who are blundering around in a field they don’t understand, a bit like Mike Ashley trying to run a large Premier League football club really!
Please don’t misunderstand, this is not to be unecessarily disparaging at all, it’s just an appeal to realism, a plea for the protestors to consult with people who know what they are doing this time before they go blundering in once again with their size 10s and misspelled bedsheets. In a David and Goliath struggle, you don’t just need all the help you can get, you need the right help to avoid falling at the first few hurdles.
I’ve seen it before in previous outbreaks of unrest which eventually fizzled out into nothing, but what inspred me this time is what I have seen from interviews and meetings so far of fan groups who want to make their views clear once again about Mike Ashley’s maladministration of Newcastle United in the wake of the last transfer window. One example was a local interview with ‘Time for Change’ member Graeme Cansdale, who was at Thursday’s meeting, where he said:
“We want to put the club in the shop window. This is not just about protesting Ashley.
“We want to get the message out there that this is a great club. It should be performing a lot better and should be run responsibly.
“If the people come together on this march, then someone might come forward. You never know.”
To be frank, a quote like that from someone who is supposed to be one of the leaders is not a good start. Make no mistake, protests will NOT impress prospective buyers, it sounds daft and takes away precious credibilty before things have even started in earnest. Though on the other hand, the fact that it is more likely to deter any prospective buyers rather than attract them shouldn’t be used as blackmail to deter fans from protesting about all that Ashley has done to the club we support in his six years of ownership.
So from here on, I have prepared a list of tips from my experiences in the past, though it is by no means extensive and comprehensive, it’s a start!
Preparation and knowing your enemy.
Preparation and knowing your enemy is the key. You need a tight cadre of intelligent and highly committed people to plan every step of the campaign carefully and keep the message under control. This should include at least one who is articulate and can establish good relations with the media.
Organisers should also think about simple, clear and succinct ways of making their point rather than long rambling, incoherent statements. The messages should be consistent and well founded as you are going to have to defend them stick with them. If you make stupid, unfounded and possibly libellous accusations about Mike Ashley or other people at the club which can’t be backed up with facts, you will be made to look stupid by Newcastle United’s PR wing or worse. You must be in control of the message.
The importance of having a good legal representation.
The importance of having a good lawyer can never be underestimated. When I was doing my stuff we had some of the very best in the country like Mike Schwartz and Michael Mansfield QC, and we never would have achieved a fraction of what we did without their sage advice, and we would have got into alot of bother too! You almost certainly wouldn’t get lawyers of that calibre working on a pro bono basis (for free) for a football club dispute but you will need good legal representation and advice nonetheless.
Money is what’s important to Mike Ashley.
Returning to the subject of knowing your enemy, and this is a VERY important point, Mike Ashley is all about money, it’s what he cares about more than anything. Therefore it’s best to hit him in the pocket by boycotting the club, no games, no shirts, no match programmes, no pints, no pies, no black and white “onesies”, no “whey aye man” superhero costumes, no nothing. This should be the centre point of any campaign because that is the one thing which could work with a greedy slug like Ashley.
If you are only going to target individual matches, choose televised ones. I don’t think I have to explain why this would have more impact!
If you really want change, you must understand that it is inevitable that sacrifices will have to be made, if you aren’t willing to make any real sacrifices, then you don’t want it enough and you will probably fail.
Everything is connected.
This is another very important point which has helped enormously with campaigns in the past. It well worth thinking about speaking with and possibly co-operating with others who have an axe to grind. Also, opening a different and unexpected front in the war (and it is a war) by hitting Sports Direct might be something worth thinking about.
Unsurprisingly, Newcastle United fans aren’t the only people who have an axe to grind with the rapacious Ashley. He treats most of his employees like dirt and he is also in the spotlight in the furore over the ‘Zero Hour’ contracts most of his employees have to work under, where they can receive a relative pittance after a good week, and absolutely nothing on a poor one, a practice which often drives employees into the grasp of loan sharks like his friends at Wonga.
Finally, there are LOTS of individuals and groups who are campaigning about Newcastle United’s current sponsors, the disgraceful Wonga, which is something else which is worth looking into.
So, for now I’ll leave it there. These are only the rather hastily assembled thoughts of someone who has some experience, and some success of protesting in the past. If you think you have anything to add, please do in the comments section below!