Supporter organisations knew NUFC were asking for dispensation after it became clear the club would be returning to the Premier League. We asked if we could put the case on behalf of the 19 sets of away fans who would visit Newcastle this season. We received no reply.
Today, on hearing the news confirmed, we contacted the Premier League again. But the supporter services department is on holiday.
If there really are safety reasons for this decision, it seems odd that the Premier League and the club aren’t explaining clearly what they are. We’d be interested to know why putting away fans pitch side is less safe than putting home supporters pitch side or, indeed, why it is safe to place visiting fans up in the gods yet not safe for home fans. We understand the way NUFC position its own season ticket holders has changed, a move widely opposed at the time by the club’s own supporters, but this is not a safety reason.
The rule was introduced because, in the words of Premier League chief Richard Scudamore: “One of the unique things about our game, particularly in England, is the amount of away fans and the noise they create. When an away goal is scored, you want that atmosphere and interaction between the two sets of fans.”
NUFC have had ample time, and have the resources, to comply with the rules. The fact that the Premier League have allowed them not to comply for at least this season doesn’t suggest it is as keen on that “atmosphere and interaction” as it says.
This is the second season in a row in which the Premier League has failed to enforce its own rules. Last season Hull City was allowed to flout the rule on offering concessionary pricing to home supporters, an issue the Premier League failed over an entire season to resolve and which has conveniently disappeared with Hull City’s relegation.
The failure to enforce its own rules, seen alongside the failure to respond to requests from fan organisations, leads us to question just how effective the Premier League is as a governing body, and how committed it is to the much heralded “structured dialogue” with fans.
In the meantime, we will ensure we pack our binoculars for our trip to Newcastle.
14 June 2017