Since Ashley arrived, the NUFC heirarchy has pivoted back and forth between apologies for lack of communication, promises of making improvements in how they communicate, excuses as to why they have not or will not communicate and blunt refusals to comment on anything as a matter of policy.

It is a requirement placed upon every Premier League club that they communicate with fans.  In addition to naming a Supporter Liaison Officer that supporters can contact, the club should also:

“provide for consultation with them on a structured and regular basis through forums, questionairres and focus groups and by the publication of current policies on major issues in an easily digested format” – Source

Newcastle United have frequently failed to hit their own target of hosting a quarterly Fans Forum.  The latest forum minutes are archived here.

November 2019
After 14 months without a fans forum or any information why the delay, the club announced a new approach.

Newcastle United is introducing new Fan Focus Groups which will give supporters an opportunity to have their say on the club’s operations and future planning. Part of a wider review of communications, the groups will partly replace the club’s existing Fans Forum, which was introduced in 2013, and will be dedicated to four key areas of the club’s operations – Ticketing, Stadium & Matchday Experience, Community & Foundation and the club’s inclusion equality movement, United As One.  

Each of the four groups will have two meetings per season (eight Fan Focus Groups in total per season). They will be attended by the club’s relevant heads of department and may feature representatives from associated organisations. We want to make it easy for fans to follow what their fellow supporters have raised and how the club is responding. Once meetings have taken place, feedback will be captured in an online Action Tracker, which will detail the issue raised, the club’s response and if the matter is on-going or concluded.

The club’s managing director, Lee Charnley, has made a commitment to meeting the chairperson of existing democratically elected supporter groups including Newcastle United Supporters Trust (NUST) and Newcastle United Disabled Supporters Association (NUDSA) during the season. These meetings will be an opportunity to listen to independent feedback and work together for the benefit of Newcastle United and its supporters. Informal in nature, these meetings will not be formally captured in meeting minutes as the Fans Forum has been, but may conclude with a mutually agreed communication where appropriate. 

The club is supporting its fan engagement efforts with a fresh commitment to wider supporter communication, building on recent national and local media interviews with the club’s owner, managing director, head coach, players and staff, as well as matchday programme notes. Going forward, fans will hear more from across the club through both the wider media and the club’s own channels, including the club’s website, NUFC TV, social media accounts and by direct email.

August 2019
Lee Charnley Chronicle interview following the opening game of the season which was the target of a supporter boycott

“We accept we need to communicate more.  Will I do it in every programme? No.  But as a minimum I will do it at the end of each window and at the end of the season.  This is just one element though of our commitment to communicate more regularly.  “Improved communication is something we have been discussing with our Fans Forum for some time and something we are committed to.  That will involve the Fans Forum, me doing some interviews with the local press and other media outlets/channels. But it will also involve other members of the team. – Source

Lee Charnley Programme notes for the first game of the season which was the target of a supporter boycott

“We want to communicate clearly and proactively, but it is important that we do so at the right time.  Sometimes we must adopt a ‘no comment’ policy and I accept that can be – and has been – frustrating.  There are reasons behind that approach.  Often, there are legalities at play or we may take the decision in order to respect the integrity of a process or the individuals involved.  What we won’t do is fuel speculation by offering a running commentary.  Instead, when we have something definitive to say, we will say it, as we did as soon as Rafa’s position became clear.

“Whilst I have stated above that I felt our approach during the summer was necessary, I accept we need to do more from a communication perspective moving forward.  There is certainly a need to communicate more as a club and to let fans know where we are heading collectively.  That goes beyond the responsibility of just the head coach or manager in isolation; something we have relied on far too heavily in the past.  We want to give you more of an insight into what happens across the club and you will therefore be hearing more from me, as you are today, and from our staff across the football club and Foundation over the season.” – Source

September 2018
Fans Forum

The club is facing a maelstrom of adverse publicity in relation to its finances and what it isn’t spending. What is the answer to that?”

The club agreed that it was important to engage in further communications around its finances, which is an area in which there is a great deal of confusion and misinformation.

“The Fans Forum would extend an invitation to Mike Ashley and the manager to attend.”

The club agreed to pass those requests on. The club agreed it will add contact details for Fans Forum members to the club’s website pending the relevant GDPR process and that a WhatsApp group would be established for direct communication with the club. – Source

At the time of writing there is no Whatsapp group as promised and just four of the sixteen members of the forum are contactable through the club website, which is the same as there was at the time of the September 2018 forum.  You can check if the club has yet kept it’s promise to add contact details for forum members here.

July 2015
Fans Forum

“Following SMc’s recent email which was sent directly to supporters, the club outlined changes to how it will be communicating with supporters.  Direct communication to supporters will be a key element and emails will be sent on a regular basis from key individuals within the club.  As part of the club’s new strategy, it will communicate with supporters directly so they get the news before anyone else does.  The club will also be delivering more content via official channels, more short clips from the training ground, when the team are away, the academy etc. and giving fans an insight behind the scenes.  The club underlined that SMc will play an important role in communication but that fans will get an insight from right across the club to share that responsibility.” – Source

March 2015
Fans Forum

“The club has continued to promote the Fans Forum via social media but will look at ways to enhance this so that more fans are engaging in the process. The club contested the notion that the board and management pay ‘lip service’ to fans in the Forum, pointing out that all questions are included and are answered honestly and openly, save for the very few occasions when the board has been unable to disclose commercially sensitive or confidential information. The accusation is usually from people who know little about the Fans Forum or have no involvement in it.

“The board stated it is aware of supporters’ concerns and is reviewing how the club communicates and how its messages are delivered and presented to supporters.

“The club is looking to improve the means by which it communicates.” – Source

January 2015
Lee Charnley explains club comms to the Chronicle

“I think we do communicate but we need to find a better way to communicate.  Our view was that Alan was the one who was front and centre and will take all of the questions on all areas of the club. Alan was then left, sometimes, in a difficult position answering questions that he probably wasn’t best suited to answer.  This is an opportunity for us with a new head coach coming in – there’s more clarity about his role and what he does. His role is coaching and that’s what he can talk about.
If that’s the case it’s only right that I then support him in terms of the messaging going out. If I’m saying ‘Only talk about team selection and the games’ there needs to be another voice.  I think the information has been out there, through the fan’s forum and through the statements, but it’s how we get it out there that needs to improve.” – Source

February 2014
Fans Forum

It was explained that while the Fans Forum had been selected as the Club’s preferred method of direct fan communication, match day programme notes under the name of its former director of football had publicly carried consistent board-level messaging in relation to a wide range of matters throughout the season.  The board clarified that Joe Kinnear was involved in the drafting of the notes but that the overall messaging was determined collaboratively and could be read as communication from the board. – Source

September 2011
Derek Llambias

“Why is there such a lack of communication with the fans from Mike Ashley and his board? 

WHEN Mike Ashley bought the club back in 2007, we were keen to engage with supporters and did so with some regularity.  As a result of some of the things we’ve done in the past there will always be fans who will not like nor believe what we have to say. The upshot is that when we speak publicly more often than not we are criticised. Some football club owners and board members talk regularly in public and enjoy it, others don’t. We much prefer to concentrate on running the club and letting the football do the talking.  After the statement I made last week, it was interesting to read comments from some supporters saying “I just wish they’d shut up!” Of course everyone has a different view, that’s football for you, which as we all know is a very passionate game.  We understand the natural appetite for information and the need for fans to have clarity on the direction we’re taking the club. It’s why we have committed to an annual mission statement from the board, along with regular communications from our media department.  Last year the media team facilitated over 500 interviews with the manager, players and other club officials which demonstrates that the club does place importance on communicating with fans.” – Source

May 2010
Derek Llambias

“All media articles and interviews regarding footballing matters will come through the Newcastle United Media Officer, and be answered by the Manager and/or coaching staff with the Manager’s authority. The Manager can give interviews in respect of footballing issues and any other sporting issues that the press may be interested in around Newcastle United Football Club.

No interviews will be given by any members of the Board in respect of any footballing issues.

The only individuals who will talk about player issues will be those connected with the football administration of the Club i.e. the Manager/Assistant Manager by way of either direct interview or through prepared statements via Newcastle United Football Club’s Media Officer. 

There will be no comment from the Board regarding the purchase of players.

There will be no comment from the Board regarding the sale of players.

There will be no comment from the Board regarding ongoing contract talks with players presently at Newcastle United Football Club or with those that the club may enter into negotiation with.

There will be no comment from the Board regarding current pay structures at Newcastle United. 

There will be no comment from the Board regarding players at other clubs in respect of their “interest” at playing for Newcastle United. 

There will be no comment from the Board to players’ agents regarding any of the above whether those agents are acting for their clients in a buying or selling capacity. 

The Board will not make any comment to the media regarding any players that they are seeking to purchase. The Board will deal with agents on their fixed terms of business and part of those terms will include clauses relating to privacy. 

The Board will not comment to the media regarding any players being sold by Newcastle United and the Board will deal with agents on the usual terms of business including explicit terms of privacy.” – Source

February 2009
Derek Llambias

“When Chris Mort was here he was very proactive with the Press. When I came on the board, Mike and I discussed it and we basically wanted to keep a lower profile. Then within no time at all KK happened. And then it just got worse and whatever we said got worse. So we decided to keep as low a profile as possible, get on with our business plan, move forward with what we were doing with our management team and to assist whatever manager was coming in as best as possible.” – Source

January 2009
Joe Kinnear

“Mike is going to speak to the Press when the window shuts.” – Source

December 2008

Mike Ashley

“I am the first to accept there have been times this season when you would have liked to have heard more from me direct, particularly at certain points. There have been reasons why I have not have been able to do that, but in the new year we will look to communicate with you more about what we are doing at St.James’ Park, be it through the club’s official website, programme and magazine as well as the wider media.” – Source

November 2007
Chris Mort

“We’ve made a conscious effort to go out and meet people. That’s partly to promote the club, but also to hear what they have to say, making this a club that they feel a part of. I spend a lot of time walking around the city, just to get the place under my skin.” – Source

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