Amanda Staveley, the Reubens and The Public Investment Fund are coming up to their six-month anniversary since taking over the club back in October. The results, thanks to Eddie Howe, have improved on the pitch, and off it, those in charge continue to show they have the knack to get the little things right.
Under previous owner Mike Ashley, it’s fair to say the little things weren’t done right. In fact the elements of the club that really mattered to fans seemed to be something of an arsenal to use against supporters.
The current custodians of the club have moved quickly to do these little things, some would say easy things, right. It began with communication not only with the press but the fans – whether that be through interviews or social media, it was refreshing for all to have some open dialogue with the club.
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One of the key points of contention with Ashley is that fans never felt considered in the decision making – feeling like they were watching from the platform as the train left the station, whereas now they feel like they’re in the carriage and departing on it . Fans just wanted to feel part of their club.
The access Jamie Reuben and Mehrdad Ghodoussi allow the fans to have via Twitter is something rather unique but for a club like Newcastle, where its supporters have such a craving for information and connection, it is exactly what is needed. Some criticize the content and the constant stream of tweets but fans have done nothing but applauded Reuben and Ghoudussi for interacting.
The club reached out to Wor Flags, knowing that their return to St James’ Park for the first game, against Spurs, of the new era, needed the supporter’s group back. Not that Wor Flags needed any encouragement to return, always maintaining that once Ashley had sold they would be back but yet again, the feeling of being appreciated was welcomed.
It coincided with the announcement that The Reuben Foundation was to match every home-game donation to the NUFC Fans Foodbank. Jamie later visited the volunteers in the build-up to the Brentford game.
Nearly six months later, the foundation has donated just short of £ 50,000 – meaning in total around £ 98,000 has been raised by fans plus the Foundation. With a fanbase that always looks after its own and has massive pride for those who stand outside the Gallowgate come rain or shine, the acknowledgment from the new owners was important.
There have been cosmetic improvements at the training ground with hopes of a total revamp, and similar changes made at St James’ Park – with promises that if the ground can be extended, it’ll remain the club’s home. The promise that any change of name – selling the rights to a sponsor – will only be done with ‘due care and attention’ is important too.
Ashley – when he changed it to the Sports Direct Arena – went ahead without consultation and despite the outrage, only allowed a return to its rightful name when Wonga came in and cleverly realized the easy PR win by changing it back.
Half the battle in football is the PR – to say the right things but following that up with actions isn’t always easy. Staveley remarked at the Financial Times Business of Football Summit, “We always remember that we are custodians and we are privileged to be there. We have got the world’s greatest fans. We want to make sure we do everything that’s right for Newcastle and the club . “
And so far, everything that has been done has been right for the club. You can also look at inviting club legends back into the fold – Warren Barton and Brian Kilcline were special guests for the clash against Cambridge United in the FA Cup. Inviting Paralympian Stephen Miller to watch the club train while in Dubai this week, or the visible support for the Newcastle United’s womens’ side – both Staveley and Ghodoussi regularly attended games – show just how across the club their attention goes.
Throw in securing the contracts of youngsters with a future ahead of them, such as Joe White, and it’s easy to see how broad the changes in approach have been.
The relocation of Alan Shearer’s statue onto the club’s land and the renaming of NINE BAR back to Shearer’s are two further gestures that the club did not need to do but felt they wanted to. Further suggestions of honoring other club legends such as Kevin Keegan or Joe Harvey, is an understanding of the history that underpins the club.
Now of course, in many ways it is easy to start well – Ashley did when he first bought the club, sitting in the away end in his Newcastle shirt, but it’s how you maintain your standards that matters. The Sports Direct owner never seemed to fully understand the benefit of having a united fanbase – it’s much more than a sold-out St James’ Park.
Staveley and the group seem very much aware of the importance. They’ve matched their words with actions, and have set the bar for hopefully what is to come.
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