THE Newcastle United Supporters Trust (NUST) have set up a new fund-raising initiative that will aim to raise sufficient money to enable fans to purchase a stake in the club if Mike Ashley is able to sell to new owners.
The NUST yesterday launched the 1892 Pledge, described as an “affordable, long-term” attempt to ensure there is genuine supporter representation at the very highest level if the club changes hands.
Supporters are being asked to pledge money to provide the Trust with sufficient capital to enter into negotiations with new or prospective owners, aimed at securing a minimum of a one per cent stake in the club.
The initial fundraising target is to raise a minimum of £3m to enable the Trust to hold meaningful discussions with potential new owners. The money will not be used to attempt to buy Newcastle off Ashley, and will be donated to North-East charities if the appeal proves unsuccessful.
Greg Tomlinson, chairman of NUST, said: “For decades, fans have been told they are the lifeblood of the club, but when major decisions are made, they are always left out.
“It is an unfortunate fact that in football, as in life, money talks. Therefore, we feel that if we as fans really want to be an active part of conversations that will dictate the future of Newcastle United, we have to put our money where our mouth is.
“Raising funds will give us the financial backing to make our voices properly heard as and when the club is eventually sold.”
No timescale has been placed on the fundraising initiative, with Ashley still hopeful of being able to resurrect a deal that would see Newcastle sold to Amanda Staveley’s Saudi Arabia-backed consortium.
Ashley is currently preparing to enter into arbitration proceedings against the Premier League, with the deal having collapsed last year when the governing body failed to ratify Staveley’s proposed purchase. If Staveley’s consortium is eventually successful, NUST would like to be in a position where they could purchase a stake in any future arrangement.
The Trust have appointed four trustees to oversee the new fund-raising drive, including former Newcastle full-back Warren Barton and Gateshead MP Ian Mearns.
Alex Hurst, NUST board member, added: “The 1892 Pledge could mean we, as fans, can invest in our club, that could be in the form of a percentage stake in NUFC if it is sold whilst in the Premier League or, if things take a turn for the worse and the club’s fortunes sink further, we would be there standing ready to provide investment and potentially be part of a buying consortium.
“Supporters must have a say in what happens to NUFC and we believe this campaign will give us a real voice in the running of the club – not just now but for years and decades into the future.
“It is important to stress we are not asking fans to part with their life savings or cash in their pension pots – this is not what Pledge 1892 is about.
“Instead, it’s about making small, regular donations of a few pounds a month (or more if people can spare it) which will build up a fund over time. It’s also about bringing NUFC supporters together in a common goal, not just fans in the North-East and the UK but all over the world.
“We believe there is nothing that fans of this club can’t achieve when we are truly united and this is a chance for us to prove it.”