Five key issues discussed at Newcastle's Fans Forum '“ and the club's answers
It had been a long time in coming. But was it enlightening?
Newcastle United’s Fans Forum met last week for the first time this season.
The club has published the minutes of the meeting, which was attended by managing director lee Charnley.
Rafa Benitez’s future – and the club’s plans for the summer transfer window – were high up the agenda, while safe standing and the possibility of expanding St James’s Park were also discussed.
Rafa Benitez’s future
Benitez was sounded out about a new contract in January. Back then, Benitez – whose deal expires at the end of next season – was focused on players recruitment.
The 58-year-old’s representatives, however, had held preliminary talks about his and the club’s future.
Charnley was asked at the Fans Forum if the club was “making progress” in talks.
Supporters at the meeting were simply told that “discussions to extend his contract are ongoing”.
The discussions aren’t just about a new deal – and that brings us on to transfers.
Benitez wants to know if Newcastle’s ambitions match his own. United’s manager has won trophies throughout his career, and he wants to challenge for silverware at the club. But is that possible with Mike Ashley as owner? That’s what Benitez wants to know.
Supporters also want to know that. Charnley was asked whether the club was “willing to back the manager in the transfer market”.
The reply was that “conversations with the manager are ongoing and include discussions around the transfer pot available”.
The club’s accounts for the 2016-17 season are yet to be published. Supporters on the Fans Forum were told that the next set of accounts would “detail the considerable financial impact of the club’s relegation”.
The club will report a sizeable loss for last season, despite making a profit of close to £30million on player trading in the summer of 2016. Ashley also loaned the club £33million.
The question is what impact this will have on the club’s financial strength ahead of the summer.
Newcastle passed the one million-mark for attendances at St James’s Park last weekend, and the club’s average attendance this season stands at 51,975, just short of the stadium’s capacity. So is there any prospect of St James’s Park being expanded?
The Gallowgate End could be extended to accommodate up to 10,000 more seats.
However, the Fans Forum was told that extending the Gallowgate End “would not make sense commercially”.
But what about safe standing? The club, which has looked at rail seating at Celtic Park, has an open mind on the issue, and recently shared a petition asking for it to be discussed in Parliament on its Twitter account.