NEWCASTLE United’s attempts to rebuild bridges continued last night as managing director Derek Llambias addressed a Supporters’ Panel meeting at St James’s Park.
In keeping with the themes of The Journal’s exclusive interview earlier this month, Llambias apologised to supporters for the mistakes they have made and admitted his decision not to speak publicly in the past had been a major blunder.
Llambias also re-addressed popular concerns, assuring supporters Newcastle have not become a selling club, that money would be available for transfer in the summer and insisted Dennis Wise did not sign players over the manager’s head.
He also moved to clarify earlier comments regarding his desire to replicate Aston Villa’s recent success, arguing he meant their ability to challenge the top four, rather than their business plan. Llambias’ presence was welcomed by members of the panel who are keen for the group to be publicised so that fans know they do have a collective voice which can communicate directly with the board.
Shaun De Redder, who has been on the panel since its inception three years ago, said: “It’s a worthwhile exercise but we just wish more supporters knew about it.
“It’s hard because it isn’t always about football things as such and that’s what everyone wants to talk about – what happened on Saturday afternoon. It’s just the running of the club. I was sceptical at first. I thought it was a public relations stunt, but positive things have come out of it.
“We are trying to get an email address sorted so fans can email us their questions directly. We can ask them and the answers can be put up on the website or in the local media.
“There were representatives from the Newcastle United Supporters’ Club. here. It has been a conflict of interest with them in the past, but we’ve said they should have a couple of people on the panel so everyone’s interests are represented.”
Michael Teasdale, who repeatedly quizzed Llambias on the size of the club’s debt, transfer record and his five-year plan for the future agreed it was a worthwhile exercise, but was still disappointed by the club’s attitude to NUSC.
He said: “I thought it got a little petty at times when Derek was asking why we charged a subscription fee. We have overheads and running costs. However, if we can have representatives on the panel that’s a step forward. It’s good he has finally turned up because it’s long overdue.
“Some interesting things came out, like they only got £5.9m for Shay Given. I thought he was a bit defensive about the debt when we were just trying to establish what the debt was.
“His explanations were fair enough, but they still have to put the message across a little bit. However, we will come along again though if this is the only way we can get the message across to them.”
Season ticket prices slashed
NEWCASTLE United are slashing their season tickets by 9%, managing director Derek Llambias revealed yesterday.
The club made the move amid widespread discontent among fans and with a real possibility looming that some diehards may not renew their season ticket next year.
It means United fans buying a season ticket for next season will be paying similar prices to those paid in 2007/08.
There is a time limit for fans wanting to take advantage of the offer – with the club giving supporters only until the end of May to buy the cut-price tickets. Full details will be revealed in April, but United have promised a Gallowgate End season ticket will be cut to £494 after being £543 this term.
More than 50% of all seats will be available to season ticket holders for £26 or less a game and the eligibility for junior price concessions will be increased from 16 to 18. The club also announced a further expansion of the family enclosure.
Mr Llambias said: "At a time when money is tight for supporters, football clubs have to recognise the sacrifices people make to continue following their team."
Dear Sir Bobby
MORE loving tributes have flooded in for Sir Bobby Robson following the opening of his new cancer research centre.
A total of 82 messages have now been written on The Journal website’s special "Dear Bobby" section. The warm words are to be collected and printed in a book which will be presented to the former Newcastle United and England boss. To send your own message, click here