Gateshead FC fans gather outside stadium in 'show of solidarity'

Young Gateshead FC fans outside the International Stadium on Tuesday night
Young Gateshead FC fans outside the International Stadium on Tuesday night -Credit:Iain Buist/Newcastle Chronicle

Gateshead FC fans should have been cheering on their team in the National League play-offs against Solihull Moors at 7pm on Tuesday night.

However, several were instead gathered outside their home ground after they were denied a place in the play-offs, along with the possibility of promotion to the Football League amid a dispute over their lease at Gateshead International Stadium. Gateshead Council have insisted that they offered assurances that the club would be granted the 10-year-lease if promoted, but uncertainty over the venue's future has been deemed too great by football authorities - with the council in the process of seeking a new operator to take over the stadium in an effort to cut costs.

Dozens of supporters staged a protest outside Gateshead Civic Centre on Monday afternoon, and demonstrations continued outside the stadium on Tuesday night, in what organisers called a show of solidarity for the players and club. Fan Stuart Allan, who lives in Bensham, said he was totally "bowled over" with the turnout - with fans of all ages attending.

Stuart told ChronicleLive: "This has to be a fresh start to push for our own premises. It has brought the supporters closer together to make us realise we need to be self-sufficient and I hope this is the push to bring us closer to finding our own ground."

Gateshead FC fan Stuart Allan
Gateshead FC fan Stuart Allan -Credit:Iain Buist/Newcastle Chronicle

David Chambers has been going to games for the last five years with his wife and 13-year-old son. David's father-in-law, David Sturrock, played for Gateshead in the 1960s.

Mr Chambers, from Washington, said: "We could have had two consecutive weekends at Wembley, but through the decisions that have been made, we'll never know now. We wonder as fans how is this going to leave us as a club.

"Are players going to be interested in playing if the ceiling is the National League? How then do you attract payers to a club of this size on this budget?"

David believes that the promotion to League Two would have had a knock-on effect for the whole of Gateshead. He added: "I think League Two would have brought more fans into the area and helped the local economy."

Gateshead FC fan David Chambers
Gateshead FC fan David Chambers -Credit:Iain Buist/Newcastle Chronicle

Mickey Barras, who co-hosts The Heed podcast, said: "We have had a golden period over the last five years, and we're being screwed over by bureaucracy. Everyone's shocked, angered, very emotional.

"I know for a fact the three of us on the podcast have cried over the weekend. The players and the management have worked so hard to get here. It's them who I feel heartily sorry for."

Mickey Barras, co-host of the Heed Podcast
Mickey Barras, co-host of the Heed Podcast -Credit:Iain Buist/Newcastle Chronicle

Gateshead FC said on their social media channels that they were grateful to the supporters who turned up to show their support on Tuesday. The club has submitted a Notice of Arbitration under the Football Association's Rule K to the National League in relation to the decision to bar them from the National League play-offs, and in addition to the English Football League in relation to their decision to reject the club's application to join the EFL.

On Monday, Gateshead Council confirmed that the authority had "recently provided a letter which would give the league the assurances they were seeking, whilst at the same time protecting the interests of the council" – including a 10-year lease agreement containing a break clause to enable a new stadium operator to negotiate fresh terms with the club.

Michael Lamb, council service director, said: "Unfortunately, this does not seem to be enough for the English Football League. Whilst the announcement by the league is extremely regrettable and we understand the club's disappointment, our priority is to ensure that we can provide sustainable and accessible leisure services for all our communities.

"We remain committed to working with all interested parties to achieve a positive resolution and will continue to advocate for the success of Gateshead Football Club."