Newcastle United supporters hailed “fan power” after weeks of concerted lobbying resulted on Thursday in the club agreeing to refund season-ticket holders for behind-closed-doors matches they had paid for.
About 18,000 fans on 10-year fixed-price season tickets had money withdrawn from their bank accounts despite being unable to attend matches because of coronavirus. With the Newcastle United Supporters Trust (NUST) leading the call for reimbursements, Mike Ashley, the club’s owner, became involved, instructing box office staff to resolve the matter.
Although the club suggests that supporters may prefer to continue their monthly direct payments into 2021 before enjoying a payment holiday next season, Newcastle have a plan to reimburse fans in three stages during this campaign.
It has said the initial refund, for the first five home Premier League games of this season, will hit bank accounts by mid-December. Depending on if and when fans are readmitted, subsequent payments are scheduled to arrive in late winter and late spring. Supporters have until the end of November to apply for reimbursements.
“It is in instances like this that we are reminded why fan pressure is absolutely vital,” said Alex Hurst, the NUST chairman. “Thanks to fan pressure we have the information fans deserve. We welcome this announcement, it’s a step in the right direction, but it could have been sorted out a lot earlier.”
Newcastle had suspended many season-ticket sales for this season but fans tied into deals whereby prices are frozen for 10 years were the last supporters of any top-tier club to be informed of a refund plan.
The intervention arrives at the end of a week in which Ashley had described the Premier League’s pay-per-view policy whereby viewers are charged £14.95 to watch certain live games as “not acceptable.”
Newcastle are disappointed by the government’s refusal to allow fans back into games because they are confident they could safely accommodate at least 15,000 supporters in the 52,000-capacity St James’ Park.
“Despite months of work to plan for a safe, socially distanced return of supporters, an outline date for the return of spectators has yet to be confirmed by the government,” the clubsaid.