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Fans Should Own Newcastle, Not Run It

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According to the Times, Newcastle United have 7 parties with a strong interest in buying the club, with 3 of them showing proof of funds as well. For a club without a permanent manager and an emotional owner who is the textbook definition of a glory fan, it’s good news.

Whether the interested parties can cough up the 300m Ashley wants or whether they’ll offer 200m for a club with transfer fees to pay and a massive wage bill is irrelevant. Ashley wants to sell more than he wants to make a profit at this point, and while he’ll push to cover his investment he will sell before he spends another 20m next season.

What’s important is that fans are also interested in taking over Newcastle.

Now I’m not a fan of the MyFC project nor do I think the Liverpool group will be able to raise the funds needed but in this case there’s a certain poetic appeal to it. As a institution, Newcastle are as low as they can be sans relegation. After years of turmoil fans have turned on the owners and in the age of billionaire buyouts a Premier League club owned (or partially owned) by fans is the best way forward for Newcastle to bring the fans back into the fold.

Can ‘Newcastle Fans United’ raise enough money to buy out Ashley? I doubt it, but if they do, or if they do a partial takeover which is enough to leave Ashley as a major shareholder but not in charge of running the club, it must be with two things in mind:

One – fans can own Newcastle, but professionals should run the club.

Democracy is over-rated. Democracy attached at the hip with mob-like emotions is downright dangerous. A community-owned club is a great idea but the fans should be limited to fundamental, structural decisions (such as voting on the club’s constitution). For decisions that involve running the club – team selection, transfers, who’s elected to the board of directors, etc – let professionals handle it.

Two – mistakes in Spain and England should not be repeated.

People often cite Barcelona and Real Madrid as examples of fan-owned clubs. There’s plenty of politics and power struggles going on at Barcelona, some of it unhealthy enough to affect the club, and then there’s Calderon at Real Madrid. In England MyFC is a shining example of what to do right and wrong in buying a club for the fans.

No model is perfect. If NFU can learn from the mistakes of others, that’ll be much more than what we’ve seen at St James’ Park in a long, long time.

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Ahmed Bilal created Sportslens in 2006. He is a business consultant and entrepreneur who helps businesses identify and overcome their biggest challenges. He’s also the founder of Football Media, an online advertising agency that specialises in sports and male audience targeting, with a monthly reach of 100m+ sports fans in the UK and US. He’s also the previous owner of Soccerlens.com – a sports news site that reaches 3m+ readers / month.