This season is very difficult for Newcastle United fans. The last few months are the continuous wave of criticism on the management, coach, and players. On the way to relegation, many of these opinions are justified. The team is playing horribly this season and everyone has their own explanation about that. But there are two main public enemies – Steve Bruce and Mike Ashley.
Steve Bruce survey
Last week was the week of surveys. The Chronicle conducted a questionnaire about Steve Bruce and his influence on the team as a head coach. Almost 14000 Magpies fans passed a devastating sentence – guilty on all counts.
95% of the respondents reckon that Newcastle United should part ways with Steve Bruce. If it will not happen, 92% think that it will result in relegation to the Championship. But what is interesting, fans did not pick Bruce as the main one to blame for the NUFC’s situation.
Fans can’t stand Steve Bruce but it’s not even comparable to the aversion to the club’s owner – Mike Ashley. He was picked as the main reason for the current club’s position by the majority of respondents (53%).
There are many reasons for that. The controversial decisions made by Ashley caused an unparalleled level of hatred and resentment from Newcastle supporters. Fans are vowing for years to change the ownership structure of the club but without a result so far.
Last year, it was very close to take the club over from Ashley’s hands by a Saudi-backed consortium willing to pay £300m to close the deal. Mike Ashley agreed but the agreement failed due to other reasons. The club said that because of coronavirus and delays caused by that, but there might have been other factors.
There were accusations that this takeover will be a flagship example of sportswashing. Saudi Arabia is investing horrendous money in sports competitions to cover fundamental human rights breaching. Owning a Premier League’s club with such a rich history would be a great opportunity to promote the country in a positive light.
The idea has failed, but what’s interesting, Magpies’ fans are still supporting it with all their heart. Only 8% of The Chronicle’s survey respondents said that they are against this takeover. Apparently, the level of aversion to Mike Ashley and the desire to become the new Manchester City overwhelmed the doubts described above.
Comparison to other PL teams
Chronicle’s survey wasn’t the only one published this week. The Athletic revealed its own about fans’ perception of their favourite clubs. As you can imagine, Newcastle United’s reputation is in terrible condition.
In almost all categories, the club scored the lowest result among all 20 clubs in the Premier League. Even Sheffield United fans are more optimistic and pleased about this season. The Magpies took the last position in the rankings about:
- Happiness with the club’s results this season (27.26/100)
- Eagerness for current manager staying as a head coach for the next season (25.41/100)
- Thinking of chances that a club has to win a trophy in the next season (23.39/100)
- Believing their club is well run (23.91/100)
- Thinking team is playing entertaining football (21.14/100)
Only in the ranking about transfers from last 12 months, Magpies weren’t the last – 16th position. What is more terrifying about all of it? 20 was the lowest possible score in this survey!
These rankings show how damaged is the club’s image in the supporters’ perception. This is a reputational catastrophe and the club should focus on repairing the relationship with fans. They are the most important stakeholder from the club’s point of view, but good cooperation between both sides is beneficial for all involved.
How to improve the relationship between fans and Mike Ashley?
It will be an exceedingly difficult goal to achieve but no doubt both sides should push to it. Mike Ashley is probably going to stay here for some time, even if there are rumours about another takeover. We can hear these rumours for more than a decade and I think it’s not going to be solved very soon.
Engaging Newcastle United fans should be a priority for the management of the club. Both sides should bury the hatchet and try to repair their relationship. The atmosphere of conflict is harmful to everybody caring about the Toon.
It can also influence transfers and hirings as potential targets might be daunted by the perspective of constant fights between fans and owner. Sponsorships are lower as fans are not engaged in the club’s activities. This situation is unfavourable for both business and entertainment.
As I said, this state of affairs is extremely difficult to repair. To start with, there is a need for a gesture of goodwill from Mike Ashley. Transparency in decision-making, improving relations with club legends like Alan Shearer, hiring a new coach – this could be a great beginning.
Then fans should value it and try to forget about what happened during the last years. It would start a long way to an appropriate relationship. Is it possible? Yes. Is it going to happen? I hope but I’m a realist. Probably Mike Ashley will finally sell the club and Newcastle United fans will build a mutual relationship with a new owner.
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