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Plan for 300,000 fans to buy club for pounds 1,000 each; Ambitious bid has been met with caution.

Byline: Paul James and Dan Warburton

NEWCASTLE United fans were last night urged to buy the club themselves. A new group was launched yesterday to bring together 300,000 supporters all willing to contribute pounds 1,000 each to the bid.

Calling itself Newcastle Fans United, it wants the club to be run on a not-forprofit basis with supporters becoming members in a model similar to that of European football giants Barcelona.

The group of four people behind the bid, which includes football agent and lawyer Mel Goldberg, spoke almost as soon as Kevin Keegan resigned from St James's Park, but only yesterday made their dreams public.

Their spokesman, Newcastle fan Peter Lee, yesterday told The Journal they had moved to show their hand after Mr Ashley began searching for a new buyer.

Fans last night said they were behind the principle of fan ownership, but raised reservations about whether it could work in practice.

The news came as the club's board came under fire for missing a meeting in Dubai with potential bidders.

Consultant Mr Lee, 45, who lives in the Midlands and has worked with the Government and one of the country's top universities, said his group would be facilitators for the fans' bid.

Talks are ongoing to secure extra finance and the group has been trying to contact former manager Keegan about their bid.

The Journal has been aware for 10 days of the group's interest, but agreed not to reveal the plan until Newcastle Fans United were ready to go public.

A statement from the consortium yesterday said: "Newcastle Fans United are a team of consultants supported by top sports lawyer Mel Goldberg. We seek to create a "socio" owned club, similar to FC Barcelona.

"We urge all Newcastle fans and all supporters of football around the world to get behind the bid.

"The fans' group savenewcastle.com supports our bid. Register your interest with them. We urge Kevin Keegan, Alan Shearer and ALL fans to get behind the bid, NOW!"

Mr Lee said the group aimed to attract 300,000 people made up of Newcastle fans, people in the Tyne and Wear conurbation, Newcastle expats around the country and the world, and from other football fans who would get behind their idea.

He explained that they were looking at a number of avenues to achieve a not-for-profit status that could even open up extra money for the bid.

Mr Lee said the involvement of Mel Goldberg, who has previously assisted England manager Fabio Capello and recommended him to the Football Association for the top job, was a sign of his group's credibility.

But last night former Newcastle United captain Bob Moncur said: "I would imagine it's totally unworkable, in as much that I can't believe that 300,000 fans are going to put in the money to buy the club.

"The game of football is based on opinions and unless someone is in charge of the overall operation, then it will be unworkable.

"The problem is getting 300,000 shareholders to agree. I'm not saying it's impossible, but it's likely to be very difficult."

Steve Wraith, former fans liaison officer at St James's Park and editor of the Players Inc. fanzine, said: "I can't really see it being a realistic target.

"This kind of thing does happen in a continental set-up, but I'm not sure it would work at Newcastle.

"It's great if it would take off and all the fans, including the 52,000 who go to St James's each week, were fully behind it, but I just think it's a very difficult thing to organise.

"I take my hat off to anyone who tries it and if they can generate enough finance then it's great, but I think you have more chance of organising a unified supporter group to influence things that way by communicating with the club.

"I don't think it's a realistic option in this day and age, when you need to be competing with the best clubs and that means we need money coming in from a buyer who can do the job and pump money into the organisation.

"The club is still in debt at the moment, but once that's clear then there will be a brighter financial future."

Frank Gilmore, chairman of the Newcastle United Independent Supporters' Association, said: "I'm not sure if it would be a realistic possibility.

"I can't see that many people in Newcastle who would be willing to put in that much money.

"It's an idea that I would love to see happen, but it's not possible."

Mr Lee said fans could contact the group via email at newcastlefansunited@savenewcastle.com

ONLINE

Go to www.journallive.co.uk/nufcfor all of the breaking news about the club.

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Sep 18, 2008
Words:798
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