Here are the answers from Derek LLambias to questions six through ten with our responses.
Derek LLambias and Mike Ashley – I don’t know what I’m doing – honestly
Given that level 7 was deserted in some parts at the Fulham game, is there any reason why those who want to sing can’t all be sat together rather than upsetting fans who don’t want to sing, which appears to be the problem in the Strawberry corner? What has caused the club to fundamentally change its stance to standing in the stadium?
I think it’s worth restating the reasons behind the changes we’ve made to Level 7.
The Family Enclosure last season was extremely popular, so much so that demand regularly outstripped supply. It’s important for us to be a family friendly club and to encourage an atmosphere where future generations of supporters feel welcome and are properly catered for.
Given that our previous Family Enclosure wasn’t large enough to accommodate all those wishing to sit there, we took the decision to extend it from 5,000 to 6,500 seats, making it the largest dedicated family area in the Premier League. The sensible thing to do was to extend the existing enclosure into the North West corner, rather than ring-fence a separate pocket of seats elsewhere in the stadium.
The positive result of this has been that we now have an additional 1,000 children and their parents with season tickets in the Family Enclosure this year.
Understandably those fans who had to move seats as a result were disappointed to do so. Whilst it heralded the end of the Level 7 ‘singing section’, we didn’t want to create a new singing section elsewhere in the ground. We would far rather encourage a good vocal atmosphere around the whole stadium than in just one part.
The club hasn’t changed its position with regard to standing. Persistent standing has never been condoned, not least because it’s in breach of strict ground regulations that apply to every club in the country. The safety certificate issued to us by the local authority is conditional on us complying with those regulations. The bottom line is if we don’t take action to address persistent standing, then we will find ourselves in trouble with the local authority and ultimately the Football Licensing Authority.
Just to be clear here, we’re not talking about temporary standing during moments of excitement – that’s part and parcel of enjoying a football match. We’re talking about standing for long periods of the game.
We should point out that less than five percent of fans stand for long periods of a game. The vast majority want to use the seat they’ve paid for and abide by safety regulations. We’ve only had two home games so far, but we’ve already received over a hundred complaints from supporters upset that their match day experience has been spoilt by a minority of fans who refused to sit down and on occasion used threats of violence and foul and abusive language in response to reasonable requests from fellow supporters.
A number of those complainants actually felt the situation was so disruptive that they chose to leave the ground at half time. That is not fair, plain and simple. We won’t tolerate persistent standing or foul and abusive language and we will look after the needs of the vast majority of supporters by issuing bans to those who continue to ignore our repeated requests.
A long winded answer that doesn’t say much at all – fact.
Many fans clamoured for a marquee signing on the striker front. Are those days gone and can we expect more continental-based players coming in January, if any?
The days of Newcastle United acquiring ‘trophy’ signings who command huge salaries for past successes on the pitch are over.
Yes they have generated excitement and anticipation in the past, but ultimately many of them have left the club poorer and with little to show for it in terms of our standing in the league.
As for where we scout from, we have no specific policy to recruit continental players and we obviously have to satisfy the Premier League rules in respect of home-grown players.
It’s not about where a player is from, it’s about their ability, age, character and value for money. We’ve found this year that we have got better value for money on the continent which is why we’ve recruited well from France in particular this summer.
Some of the signings that Freddy Shepherd made as trophy signings were absolute disasters and a complete waste of money for the club.
The other thing is we don’t need to make trophy signings until the club is back in the top six, and until then we can build up the side with intelligent signings like those of Cheick Tiote, Demba Ba and Yohan Cabaye.
We’d much rather see those type of signings than paying out £17M for Michael Owen, £11M forAlbert Luque, £8.5M for Jean-Alain Boumsong £6.5M for Marcelino.
For one reason or another the above signings were just disastrous for Newcastle , and a complete waste of money in both transfer fees and wages.
Are you concerned about the 10,000 drop in attendance and that fans are either not renewing season tickets or have headed to support local non-league teams instead?
On the contrary, season ticket sales are actually up on where we were this time last year.
We introduced a ground-breaking ten year fixed price deal for season ticket holders this year. This was a genuine initiative aimed at rewarding loyalty and guaranteeing long-term affordability for fans. The deal was very well received and in fact two-thirds of all season ticket holders have taken advantage of that deal. So we’re delighted to have introduced a genuine initiative which has been so popular, and we’re very happy with the number of season ticket holders we have this year.
It’s too early in the season to suggest there’s any trend emerging with regard to on-the-day sales. The Fulham fixture was a Sunday match and a 1pm kick-off, as well as falling during the school holidays too. Those factors undoubtedly played their part. Also of course Fulham’s travelling support was very small at just 433. The attendance was actually not far off what we had expected for that fixture. For the Arsenal game, the attendance was far higher than we saw for the first game last season which is fantastic.
The support this club receives is phenomenal and never taken for granted. If we do see a trend emerging for whatever reason, then we will look to address that.
We certainly hope the attendances don’t stay at around the 42,000 mark, but we’ll know soon enough. We also don’t like the demonstration stuff too much, which some fans always suggest when things are tough.
But that always has a negative impact on the players, and even helped the club get relegated two years ago.
Supporting the lads through thick and thin is what had made this club great, and different from all the others. We haven’t won a trophy since 1969 yet the Newcastle fans support their team like no other fans on earth.
That’s the truth and it’s probably the single thing that makes Newcastle known all around the world, and which still allows Newcastle to attract top players to Tyneside.
If only we could get a team out on the field approaching the support level from the fans – we’d win the Premier League.
We hope the support will be there this season for the players.
Is Mike Ashley considering putting the club up for sale?
Mike Ashley has no intention of putting the club up for sale.
He is still extremely passionate about strengthening the club and making it a real success. We are balancing the books and getting the finances in order, but there’s plenty more work to be done and he’s committed to doing that for the long-term.
That said, it’s worth going back to the analogy of the house that’s not for sale. If suddenly an incredible offer comes in, he may have to consider it.
From time to time we are approached by people claiming to have an interest in buying the club. Our message to them is clear: buy a box for a commitment of five-seasons and then we’ll know you’re serious. No-one’s taken us up on that offer!
I’d like to make a further point here. This club can’t support itself without the financial backing of Mike Ashley; we still rely heavily on the owner. To date Mike has invested over £280m into the club, including £140m in interest-free loans. For him to continue to support the club, he has to be interested and enthused to do so. He deserves credit for his financial support but a section of supporters don’t make him feel welcome at St James’ Park, or when he attends away games. Criticism is part and parcel of the job, abuse is not. This makes life uncomfortable and certainly doesn’t make Mike feel more inclined to put his hand once again in his pocket. That’s not stubbornness, it’s human nature. I think most of us would feel exactly the same.
Immediate knee jerk reaction is that’s a pity, because we just don’t think Mike has the personality or is the type of person who should own Newcastle United.
He just doesn’t seem to be cut out to be an owner of a football club, least of all the passionately supported Newcastle United, and as we’ve said before, his biggest failing is his woeful communication.
We often wonder why he didn’t buy a low key club like Wigan Athletic, Bolton Wanderers, Birmingham City, or one of those smaller clubs who have less ambition than Newcastle.
Our big question remains as to what Mike wants to do with Newcastle, and why he bought the famous club in the first place, if he doesn’t want to take the club forward?
Time is starting to run out for some of us older supporters, and we’ll not get anywhere quickly under Mike Ashley.
Newcastle United has the third highest attendances in the country, Sky TV and income from merchandising, plus a lower debt position than many in the EPL. Why in terms of player recruitment can Newcastle not compete with smaller clubs like Stoke, Fulham and QPR?
We’re privileged to have a huge fan-base and the TV income and merchandising revenue that goes hand-in-hand with that.
The efforts we’ve made over recent years to reduce our debts has only been possible because we’ve kept our operating costs in check and carefully managed our wage structure, wage to turnover ratio, and transfer spending policy.
It would be inappropriate to pass comment on the way other clubs run their business, and it would be a largely irrelevant exercise. Suffice to say that we have a strong business strategy which we are committed to following and which we believe will reap benefits for the club and its supporters over the years to come.
That question is tongue in cheek. We know we cannot compete with the big clubs but last last summer, but we didn’t fare too well against some of the smaller clubs either.
And those smaller clubs spent a lot more than us in net spending in the transfer market, even though Newcastle had plenty of money to spend.
Derek seems to have completely missed tongue in cheek nature of the question.
A sterile answer with no new information.