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Toon win for the racetrack wizard

THE man who transformed the fortunes of Newcastle Racecourse is now hoping to repeat that success at St James’s Park.

THE man who transformed the fortunes of Newcastle Racecourse is now hoping to repeat that success at St James’s Park.

David Williamson the new operations director at Newcastle United Football Club will take charge of his first game at the ground today when the Toon play Reading.

The club says Mr Williamson’s “focus will be widespread, relating to all business-related matters at the club”.

During his time as executive director at the racecourse Mr Williamson helped boost turnover from £2.5m to £6.5m.

He transformed the fortunes of the Northumberland Plate weekend – which now brings in £30m to the regional economy – and introduced Ladies’ Day which now attracts over 15,000 racegoers.

He said: “I feel very privileged to be working for Newcastle United.

“I’m delighted that my new role allows me to stay in sport and, just as importantly, to stay in the North East.

“People in this area have a great passion for sport, particularly football, and my new role excites me no end.”

Newcastle United chairman Chris Mort, who headhunted Mr Williamson, said: “I am sure David will add considerably to the long-term development of Newcastle United.” Mr Williamson, 47, spent six years at the racecourse joining in April 2002.

Employed by Northern Racing he quickly set about reviving the fortunes of the whole 812-acre estate in which the racecourse sits.

A £3m Football Development Centre with all-weather 5-a-side and 11-a-side pitches, gym, bar and sports injury treatment centre was opened recently.

More than £1m was spent on the Parklands golf course and the development of a junior American Style Mini Golf course which opened in May last year.

Further progress was made in the development of the site for conferences catering for blue-chip names such as Greggs, Lloyds TSB, and Legal and General.

Mr Williamson added: “I am one of life’s lucky people. I’ve worked in the world of racing, golf and now football. The three sports I love.

“In my time at the racecourse business went through the roof. We focused on the Plate and turned it into something that belonged to the whole of the North East. It generates huge revenue for the region. The biggest success was Ladies’ Day.”

Originally from Edinburgh, but having been in the North East for most of the last 20 years, Mr Williamson is the latest addition to the new-look management structure now in place at St James’s Park. Following Mike Ashley’s takeover there have been wholesale changes off the field.

These have included the appointment of Chris Mort as chairman, new manager Kevin Keegan and support staff including Arthur Cox and Chris Houghton. Former Leeds United manager Dennis Wise has been appointed director of football and Tony Jimenez director of recruitment.

Interesting times ahead both on and off field

DAVID Williamson’s brief to tackle all business-related matters at the club will present him with a number of challenges.

Newcastle United’s drop down the Premier League in recent seasons has been matched by a similar slide down the list of the world’s richest football clubs.

Back in the 2002-2003 season when United were competing in the Champions League they crashed into the top 10 football rich list with revenues of £96.7m.

But now they lie 14th with revenues of £87.1m in the 2006/7 season.

While European football will no doubt help boost revenues, Newcastle owner Mike Ashley, Chris Mort and Mr Williamson will be looking at generating alternative off-field revenue streams. In the remaining months of Freddie Shepherd’s regime plans were unveiled to increase ground capacity to over 60,000.

Proposals were also unveiled for a 140-bedroom hotel on the site of the former Magpie Supporters Club, at the corner of Barrack Road and Pitt Street, as well as a luxury apartment block – dubbed Number 1 St James’ Park – on the site of the car park, overlooking Leazes Park.

There may also be scope to develop at the Gallowgate end after the plans for a casino on land above St James’s Park Metro were quashed by the Government recently.

While it is not yet clear what direction Mr Williamson will take the club these are interesting times, both and off the pitch, at Newcastle United.

 

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