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After years of torturous ownership — from the insulting and patronising Halls to the clueless and inept Mike Ashley — it would seem no wonder that Newcastle fans would be interested in attempting to assert some control on the destiny of their club, especially given their huge numbers and seemingly endless willingness to pump cash in through ticket sales and merchandise.
Last week, the Newcastle United Supporters Trust launched their bid to buy the club. NUST have said their aim “is to make sure the fans voice is never ignored again and the way to do this is to make sure that we’re at the top table and to achieve that we have to buy in.” The Trust, after what they admit were early “faltering steps”, have now achieved legal legitimacy as a democratic, not-for-profit Industrial and Provident Society, attained local media support and garnered pledges of over £20m even before their public announcement, with many pledging from their pension investment pots.
It’s a shame, then, that Louise Taylor’s piece in the Guardian today does not even bother to look at the nuts and bolts of the concept and instead simply dismisses the entire concept of supporter involvement in club ownership: “I’m all for a spot of idealism but somehow doubt whether football clubs are really the right places, let alone ripe, for democracy.” So what exactly are they ripe for, then? Unaccountable oligarchic rule? That hasn’t worked out so well for Newcastle, either, has it?
- As predicted by the blog MFUSA yesterday, MLS Commissioner Don Garber’s comments about the possibility of MLS teams playing under domed stadia (which MFUSA saw as an attempt to hush Sepp Blatter’s oft-stated desire for MLS to follow the international calender) was naively picked up by the press today as a serious proposition, with the Denver Post and Kansas City Star following up. Neither piece looks at the actual realism (or not) of the suggestion: though there could be some kind of a business model there tied to a successful indoor entertainment arena, most of the cold-climate cities in MLS have built or are building their own soccer-specific-stadiums in the past few years, including Chicago, Denver, New York and Toronto. Any such move indoor en masse to allow winter play would thus have to wait for the second generation of clubs’ own stadia, likely decades away.
- Scotland, whose fall off the footballing map is matched by few (though was somewhat inevitable given the country’s population), might soon finally have a team of more diverse origins reflecting the country’s population — FIFA last week approved Gordon Smith’s (the Scottish Football Association chief executive) proposal for British nations to allow players with no blood links into their national teams if they have at least five years of schooling in that country. Graham Spiers of the Times praises the move, saying “It is a complete mystery why, for example, Scotland’s ethnic communities, particularly its throngs of Asians, have yet to embrace football. Unlike England, the Scots scarcely know what it is like to have non-whites pulling on the national jersey, to a point where we almost seem backward or out of synch with the modern world.”
- Alex Ferguson has called on his media friends to help him in his public war of words with the referees’ association, as James Ducker helpfully writes that “sources close to Ferguson have indicated that he is ‘90 per cent convinced’ he will be charged and that he holds little hope of receiving a fair and proper hearing because of the publicity surrounding the case. Ferguson is furious at what he perceives to be a media campaign against him and believes a witch-hunt is being fuelled by sources close to senior referees.”
The Sweeper appears daily. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.