As Amanda Staveley (wonder what she's up to these days) let out the rallying cry, the online section of Newcastle United fans heeded the call and changed their profile photo, retweeted a hashtag and spammed the Premier League social media accounts. Like a toddler thrashing out at the wind as it blows in its face or an American buying a new semi-automatic to fight COVID-19, their intentions were good but their efficacy similar to that of Joelinton shooting from range.
Small victories were celebrated as the Premier League Twitter page was forced to delete a post about a West Brom goal and a man entered a glass-fronted reception with some instant porridge, "Geordiiiiies...like that." You could almost taste the first global superstar transfer bought with Saudi money. Meanwhile, the Twitter troops awaited instruction on which online checkout basket they needed to fill (but not purchase) and the meme sweatshop workers pulled double shifts to force Masters’ hand. Genius. We had never seen such commitment and relentless work ethic since, well, since the Sports Direct protests. Every social media post was bombarded with images and comments until they were forced to stop posting anything, the online store showed no stock as ‘COCKNEYMAFIAOUT’ held 40 pairs of Lonsdale shorts in their basket for a week and a handful of people stood outside a shop.
At least they achieved their, oh no, wait...never mind. He’s still the owner. The fanbase has been disjointed and fragmented for many years but the Ashley era has splintered each of those fragments to the point where not even the online section of the Toon Army can agree on one page or person to follow. Crises breed new groups, new hashtags and new protests yet nothing ever changes other than the follower count of the disaster capitalists. Thirteen years on and Mike is still here. 2020 is almost over and still no takeover. The NUST offered the possibility of a legitimate, official voice for the fans to unite behind and yet attracted equal measures of criticism and praise for its actions. That it sought legal counsel for communication with the Premier League, that it had an actual conversation with Amanda Staveley, that it is legally registered and regulated mattered not to those who preferred positive online platitudes to detailed official discourse.
That it was criticised for not making its letter to Richard Masters public and then criticised for making its phone call with Amanda Staveley public says all you need to know about the hurdles it had to overcome in gaining the following of the online cults. In a phenomenon stretching wider than the NUFC takeover, people were drawn to blind faith and the comfort of being told what they wanted to hear.
Boris Johnson told the nation to believe in Brexit and that the positive British spirit would ensure success and, although the results have yet to be seen, the blame is already primed for those who did not believe enough. Those who questioned its sense and offered critical analysis were negative and unpatriotic to even contemplate anything other than an unparalleled era of prosperity.
And such is the online world of the Newcastle United takeover, as those who remained 100% positive right up until the moment of bid withdrawal (and beyond) were held up as Demi-Gods for keeping the positivity and raising spirits. Meanwhile, those who suggested that all may not be well as the four week process entered week seventeen were excommunicated from the Cathedral on the Hill. Even as we entered the post-takeover world, acceptance of its fate and a suggestion that we try to move on was seen as heresy, while the YouTube channels and newly-spawn fan pages swore to you that it wasn't over if you just wanted it enough. There were even suggestions that funds were raised to buy Saudi flags to ‘stand by our Saudi brothers’. Give me strength. ‘You’re not a real fan if you don’t share this!’, they cried from their keyboards, as though questioning the link between a Twitter hashtag and Richard Masters making a decision was just cause to remove your black and white colours for eternity.
In an online room filled with bereaved and emotional people, there were those using the tactics of mediums who gain trust by glibly asking whether anyone has ever lost someone. Of course they fucking have but to those not thinking clearly, this seems prophetic and something to cling to and follow. Fans wanted to hear that it wasn’t dead, that communication was still open, that there was still a chance – and in stepped the mediums to tell them just that. Trust was earned, cult followings increased and time-served journalists were cast aside for never doing this much to help the collective mental health of the fan base. ‘I demand to know the truth!’ … but only if it’s the truth I want to hear. The Premier League’s stance with Newcastle United fans has perhaps been one of contempt but certainly one of a sense of superiority. We are nothing to them and, however much we may disagree with that, it’s part of a pattern in the global capitalist world. They have made it very clear that their interests lie with the so-called ‘big six’, although how perennial failures Tottenham make that list is beyond me. If any of the other clubs exit the league, they are replaced by another and it makes little difference to the global product of the Premier League. Newcastle United may be the most important thing in our lives but it is a replaceable cog in the Premier League machine and it whirs on regardless. The love of football and our football club makes us the easiest of victims in a game of neglect and abuse, as our owner and those above him can do whatever they like knowing that we will be pulled by the undertow of obsession and even if the club drowns, so what? Did the Premier League care when English football giants like Nottingham Forest and Leeds exited and, until recently, did not return? New members took their places and eventually teams like Wolves and Leicester emerged as top half clubs and European representatives for the laughably-titled ‘Greatest League in the World’.
When the football resumed, many of us who have grown weary of this seemingly endless takeover back and forth, hoped that it would disappear into the background. After all, the noise was loudest when we were locked in our homes with none of the distraction offered by ninety minutes of Brucelona. Imagine the disappointment, then, that between the NCSL and a couple of local newspapers, the charade of the mediums lives on loudly.
Newcastle Consortium Supporters Ltd - a name no doubt carefully chosen so that 'Consortium' could be used in headlines, to create an ambiguity and intrigue that the article was about the actual consortium of buyers. Well-played, sirs. The initial intentions of Gordon and Keith may well have been good ones but they appear to have become lost along the way. What the men themselves are doing is unknown but their social media activity has been reduced to little more than rabble-rousing.
The fairytale goes that two normal fans, just like you and I, used their own hard-earned money to pay for the country's top anti-competition QC (he's wrote books, ye knaa!) to take down the corrupt Premier League. 'Legal papers were served' (a letter before action was sent), imaginary deadlines and ultimatums were given but not carried through, exclusives were written, podcast slots were filled and followers were gained. UNITED (insert zebra here).
With vague statements and a lack of clarity from the offset, there was confusion over the aim of the NCSL. If the plan was to take the Premier League to court over anti-competition law, how did this benefit Newcastle United or force the takeover through? Transparency was the buzzword used time and time again, by the least transparent organisation you could ever wish to find. Genuine questions ignored, blind faith and praise retweeted and critics blocked - a recognisable social media tactic to all familiar with NUFC Twitter.
"We're right behind you lads!!"
"Keep up the good work!!"
"You've done more than the trust ever did!!"
"Get the corrupt bastards!!"
Perhaps it is the innate mindset of football supporters to believe that their support influences an outcome in their favour. The problem being, of course, that this arena isn't St. James' Park and the players in this game are not kicking a ball around. What role support or togetherness has in achieving their aim(s) is unknown, as are their aim(s), but that doesn't stop their propaganda:
All takeover fans are UNITED.
Its our deal to win! Together we can do it.
Thanks for your support!"
Deal? How's the legal case, did ye say? It's all gone a bit quiet on that front but any questions about it are met with rebuke from the cult, for it has become just that. You can tell when something has become a cult when stock answers and catchphrases are offered in response to questioning. For 'sovereignty', 'WTO terms' and 'Brexit means Brexit' see 'join the dots', 'things are happening in the background' and 'the buyers never left'. All baseless, meaningless, empty words to appeal to propaganda and populism.
The belief that someone has done something seemingly negates the need for any evidence of the accomplishment but if aims are kept vague then achievements can be celebrated in blissful ambiguity.
The Premier League responded to a letter (which they were legally obligated to do)
Some MPs responded to correspondence from constituents (which they are obligated to do as part of their job roles).
Small victories in the quest to, erm, win a legal case on anti-competition grounds? Has the Premier League 'opened its books' yet? Is that still what's happening?
At some point, it's hard to keep up, the modus operandi appears to have shifted to appealing for Newcastle United's arbitration with the Premier League to be expedited and made public. That's what the MP letters were for, apparently. Arbitration is a private means to settle disputes between two parties and a way to resolve issues outside of the courts. Newcastle United is a multi-million pound company and the Premier League is a multi-billion pound company but the local MPs for Hexham and Jarrow have been tasked with using power they do not have to force their private dispute into the public eye and, while they're at it, hurry it up!
The demands for matters to be expedited is as confusing as the demands for transparency, each flying in the face of a practice what you preach mantra. Indeed, a recent Twitter interaction went as follows:
"They have gone nowhere and are as keen as you and me to do this deal. Let's get Christmas out of the way and then continue this fight in 2021 to deliver the takeover we all so badly want. Stick together as a fanbase and we can win this! (insert zebra)"
"2021 now. They wanted it done by January. This isn't going anywhere, they have had long enough to get it sorted!"
"We've NEVER put a date on this, not ever!
Your negativity helps nobody and how
much have YOU contributed to the takeover?"
Yeah, what have YOU ever done to contribute to a multi-million pound business transaction between a football club and a consortium involving an entire country? Nothing! What have we done? Well, erm, UNITED! (zebra). The responses, in case you needed more examples of the cult status of this group, were a thing to behold:
"Have faith all, the pressure is working bit by bit. It is!"
"It's all working. Bits are happening and it's a no time limit process."
"Don't give a moment's thought towards these negative idiots. We all owe you SO MUCH!"
"We all need to remain confident this will happen."
"There is no question the EPL is feeling the heat!"
"You have been brilliant, fighting the cause! If you don't agree, keep it to yourself. This group don't want to hear what you think!"
Of course, a certain legal expert previously universally-adored by the social media branch of Newcastle United fans, did urge caution against the claims by NCSL and their supporting cast of enabling media that the Premier League would 'open their books' to them, that they had legal standing and that court proceedings would be imminent.
I say previously universally-adored because such caution, born of actual knowledge, qualifications and experience in such legal proceedings, led to abuse and questioning of the same expertise that was widely sought and shared just a few months earlier. We're tired of experts! The difference, of course, being that the information shared in the summer happened to fall on the 'right' side of the takeover story. Remember, "I demand to know the truth! … but only if it’s the truth I want to hear."
Such is the warped thinking of those deeply entrenched in their viewpoint, that they twist all logic and evidence to fit their narrative or, as the newly-appointed 'greatest journalist in the North East's history' would say, "Join the dots!"
"I get it finally. The NCSL case was to speed up the arbitration hearing!"
"Always has been. NCSL is just a way to release info to the public that will support the proper legal case from Ashley."
The NCSL's own Twitter account states that they are, 'Challenging the EPL for breach of anti-competition law during the proposed takeover of NUFC.' In their own press release from October 27th 2020, they stated that, 'Our plan is to seek maximum expedition of our case before a specialist competition law court, the Competition Appeal Tribunal.' Ignore that, though, they definitely set out to do what the above Twitter quotes claim.
It is this same approach to ignoring facts and twisting truths that has led to the crowning of the dot-dot-dot ringleader as the best journalist since sliced bread (a fantastic food writer, in his day).
"How close do you think it is, mate?"
"The weight of evidence is growing, so too is positivity from ALL sides."
"Thanks, you've been a breath of fresh air through this whole saga."
It is positivity that has earned this 'best journalist' accolade, as well as the investigative skills and contacts that have somehow led to being the only media outlet in the entire country for every NCSL exclusive. Remember, all of the other North East sports journalists are not reporting these stories because they are (a) lazy; (b) incompetent; (c) hate Newcastle United and the city or (d) Qatari shills. That most of these exclusives tend to break on a Tuesday, when a certain YouTube show airs is pure coincidence, of course. Join. The. Dots.
We are already seeing semantics being leaned on as a defence, as months of clickbait headlines, positive exclusives, dot joining, cheerleading and even a turkey almost being cooked are now being clarified as never meaning the takeover would actually happen. An oven-ready deal never meant a deal was ready, apparently.
Mike Ashley, Newcastle United and Nick De Marco may well get the result they want from their arbitration with the Premier League but this is likely to be in the form of compensation to Mike Ashley. After all, since when did Mike care about anything or anyone other than himself? He has not hired Nick De Marco to join him in a valiant, noble quest to bring the good people of Newcastle what their hearts desire. He wants his money, he thinks the Premier League has cost him it and he wants compensated.
Whether this exposes any wrongdoings along the way is open to speculation but how any of this results in Newcastle United being taken over by the consortium (the real one - not the zebra group) remains to be seen, unless you're of the blind faith and cryptic messages persuasion. They, ironically, see everything. The buyers are silent, aside from Mehrdad Ghodoussi 'liking' the odd social media post, but those ITK assure us that they're in regular communication with them and they remain just as committed as ever, have never left us and just need us to believe!
Of course, one day Newcastle United will be taken over by someone and when this day arrives you can expect the cult to celebrate its heroes. Throw enough shite at the wall and some of it will stick. Whoever it is, and whenever it is, it will all be thanks to the vague, intangible efforts of the NCSL, its exclusive media partners and its cheerleaders. They kept positive, kept the faith and saved Newcastle United. All who doubted them will be banned from St. James' Park, branded a mackem and be forced to watch on from the stocks as we win the Champions League.
The fairytale has its perfect ending.