We are a group of ordinary fans who want Matchday to be an extraordinary experience again. Under Benitez, Newcastle United is on the right track after many years of decline. We’re top of the league (Whey Ye Knaa). We’re playing good football again. Scoring Goals. Benitez is a proper football man who respects the fans and loves the city. It feels like our club again. The ground is full every week. But let’s be honest with ourselves. Something is not quite right is it? 52,000 people can be awfully quiet.
Something serious has gone missing from St James’s Park. It’s not only at our club. A long slow death of atmospheres at home grounds across the country has been ongoing for many years now, but we believe it is now at a crisis point. Going to the match is no longer fun.
The demographics of football grounds have changed. There seems to be more customers than fans in grounds these days. We resolutely state now we are fans and not consumers. And we want a ground where the fans are respected and cherished.
For too long, football fans have been under suspicion. Everyone has stories of fans hey know who have received letters from the club warning them of their behaviour over the last 20 years or so. Ordinary fans threatened for standing up, swearing shouting or singing. Clubs have sought to gradually edge these people out, gentrifying the game in favour of a different customer base. The game has been take from the working class in favour of the Sports Bar members, families and the respectable consumer.
That is fine. Football is a people’s game. It should be open to all. But it’s no longer open to all. Fans who want raise the roof are excluded and sidelined, treated with suspicion, complained about or held in contempt. If there are spaces for ‘Sports Bars’ then there needs to be space in the ground for fanatics. For supporters who, as kids at their first game spent as much time looking around at the crowd in awe, as they did watching the action on the pitch.
In the terrace days fans who wanted to sing could naturally congregate in an ‘end’. All seaters killed that culture. And there is no going back to it. But the bogey man of ‘the bad old days’ is used to keep fans in their place. The equating of football fan culture with football violence was deliberately made in the years following Hillsborough in order to gentrify the game. That link needs ending now. No-one wants to ‘go back’ to the bad old days. Its neither possible nor desirable. But in many ways, these days today are the bad old days. High ticket prices, silent grounds, ordinary fans no longer feeling welcome. Owners with no respect for history and heritage. Sanitised, corporate customer base rather than a fan base.
As a money-making venture, football still works. Attendances at football grounds is still high, TV money rolls in from across the world. But what makes football unique, its fan culture, doesn’t work anymore. Without action from us, the fans, the future is a drift into a sanitised culture similar to American Sports Fans. The crowds are high, but the atmosphere is increasingly staged. Fans sit quietly with rugs on their knees and the volume is turned up on the tannoy system. The game would still make money. Owners would still turn profits. Fans would continue to give up, enjoy it less and less.
Alternatively, we take action!
Some fans have already been doing so. True Faith encouraged people into the Strawberry Corner again this season. Many wanted to move there. But too many fans who are not the types who want to stand and sing seem unwilling to move. While at the same time there are thousands of other fans stuck in other parts of the ground getting tutted at if they stand up and sing. The Gallowgate Flags group have also done excellent work this season in an attempt to improve atmosphere. The flags and displays have been a class act. But, in spite of these efforts, many fans seem to think that waving a flag prior to kick off and then sitting down and saying nowt is enough. We think its not enough. Not by a long shot.
We believe a different future is possible. One in which the atmosphere is better than it ever was. Not a return to the past. But a big noisy future. Football has changed, we recognise that. But while all different kinds of customers are catered for at football grounds these days, we will demand that fans who want to sing their hearts out are catered for as well. We need space given over to fans who want to make St James’s park the most intimidating place to play football anywhere in England. We need an ‘End’ for Fans who want to make this happen.
There is a demand for this. There is also a precedent to learn from. Across Europe, and in particular Germany, club recognise the unique contribution fans (not customers) make to their clubs. Fan culture is respected and protected, placed at the heart of the club. Fans have an end that is theirs. Some, like St Pauli, even have space inside the club to organise banner displays and hang out in when its not matchday. Without club involvement and support for our unique fan culture this won’t work. Lip service to the ‘great Geordie crowd’ won’t cut it anymore. The atmosphere at St James’ park used to be one of the best in the country. It is now dire. We are living off our past reputation, and we want to stop the rot.
What we are not looking to do is enact some cheap casual inspired replica of the past, where pretend hooligans can strut around in designer gear acting like they’re in the football factory. Nor will any ugly politics be welcome. We are anti-racist, anti-fascist and anti-sexist. We believe any fan from any background should be welcome in St James’s park. United by our desire to lift the roof off the stadium, anyone from any walk of life is welcome in that endeavour.
We aim to bring in a raucous working class fan culture back at St James’s park. The 12th man not only in name. No longer living off our past reputation but creating an entirely new white hot atmosphere we can be proud of.
To make this possible we need your help. We will be contacting and working with the club in the New Year to make this a reality. Next season away fans will be moved from their top position in the Leazes end level 7, so we feel this is a perfect opportunity. Lets look at St James’s park afresh. Making this possible will mean fans who do not want to become involved will have to move. This may be inconvenient but for the greater good we hope fans will do so. If they don’t we’re afraid they are only contributing the slow death of atmosphere at St James’s park. 3 sides of the ground will be for people who want to sit and just watch the match how they like. We’re aiming big. We want the Gallowgate end to be the home of the 12th man. Where singing and making noise is not only welcome but expected.
What you can do. We are only a small group, but we do not intend to be a small group very long. We aim to create a fan movement for change. One dedicated to fan culture and getting the ground rocking every game.
Once we have our website up and running we will ask people to sign up to this movement. We will have more detailed proposals for action and campaigns, like campaigning for Safe Standing, we will be organising which we will ask people to sign up to and get involved. For now we ask you to tell all your mates about it. Come up with your own ideas for it. And watch this space. Once we’re up and running we’re going to need everyone’s backing who wants it to happen.