On Saturday 20th September 2014 SackPardew.com held a large-scale protest against Alan Pardew’s continued employment as Newcastle manager during Newcastle United’s home game with Hull City in the Barclays Premier League. Prior to the game we obtained 30,000 A4 display sheets, 105 banners and hired a van that was emblazoned with “SackPardew.com” to drive laps around St. James’ Park. 10 city centre establishments opened their premises to us, and a local promotional company provided us with 4 paid staff to facilitate legal on-street distribution close to the stadium.
Having arrived en masse into Newcastle by 11am, our volunteers spread throughout the city and were greeted by an overwhelmingly positive response from fans of all demographics. Aside from a few isolated incidents the reaction to our banners and sheets was incredible, with over 20,000 of the former and all 105 of the latter given out to supporters, who were keen to make their feelings known in the stadium. The hard work of those on the ground to make this happen was astonishing, with members of our group travelling from far and wide to take part, and extra assistance from other like-minded supporters on the day was incredibly valuable. Ultimately we were still a few hands short, though, and we believe that with a larger group all 30,000 sheets would easily have been handed out.
Our intention all along was to facilitate a controlled, peaceful protest against Alan Pardew and to that end we were extremely successful. Following the match, Northumbria Police confirmed that there were no reports of trouble relating to the protest and the club confirmed that nobody was ejected from the stadium for taking part in the visual demonstration during the 5th minute. This was despite the fact that there were multiple reports from fans of overzealous stewarding before, during and after the game.
This over the top stewarding was part of what we believe to be a highly orchestrated plan to quell our protest by Mike Ashley and Newcastle United Football Club, with the PR wheels firmly set in motion in the days leading into the game and self-proclaimed crisis management/PR specialist Keith Bishop, sat alongside our owner from kick-off. Put simply, thanks to your help, we had the club running scared. However, their draconian response to proceedings was still incredibly disheartening and has facilitated the “poor take-up” narrative that has followed in the media. A narrative that is wholly false and unjustified. They may have “won” in the stadium, but everything pre-match pointed to something special happening and Newcastle City Council reported no problems with litter or undue disruption around the city centre as a result of our activities.
If you were at the ground you know exactly what the response was, due to the extremely visible presence of club stewards outside the turnstiles and inside the stadium. Black bags were present at a majority of access points and those entering St. James’ Park were routinely asked if they were carrying any “banners or cards”, which were promptly confiscated if seen or admitted to. Bags were searched, club programmes were rifled through and material was snatched out of people’s hands if they did not comply. Whether you agree with our protest or not, it is clear to see the club’s reaction to our plans was typically crass. When we opened dialogue with stadium security for answers we were passed to their media department and received nothing but radio silence. No change there, then.
Still, plenty of those “banners and cards” did make it through the gates unchecked and the 5th minute protest went off without a hitch, albeit in an extremely muted fashion. Regardless of how the protest was received in the ground or construed in the media, we must make it clear that this was a 12-day-old fan-run website up against a millionaire, backed by a billionaire and his powerful friends. If nothing else we have shown what can be achieved with an idea, some organisation and support from the wider fan base. This must bode well for the future. None of us have been a part of anything like this before, but we will be again, and hopefully with even more support from others next time.
Nobody involved could have predicted how the thousands of supporters would take the baton and run with it, but those who protested in the 5th minute largely did so in a dignified silence, respecting the wishes of Fabricio Coloccini and fellow supporters who urged nothing but support for the players. The demonstration did not impact on the result and was out of the way very early on, allowing everybody inside the ground to focus on the remainder of the game. Although the club did a tremendous job of undermining our efforts, the visual impact was still there and picked up by the media, so the message still got across. If you were one of those people who did not support our campaign on Saturday we fully respect your decision and reiterate that we do not want to pit fan against fan, believing instead that those people not wishing to protest should be afforded the respect that those who do would expect to receive themselves. Anyone deciding that the measured but strong stand we have shown is something different to the baying mob they had expected, we encourage you to join us as we move forward.
We sign off by reminding people that this is not just about five games, though as it stands Newcastle United do happen to sit bottom of the Premier League, are still without a win and have collected just 3 points from the first 15 available, in what many assessed as a relatively “easy” start. There was every reason to be critical of Alan Pardew before, during and after the match and as far as we see it nothing has changed since Cardiff (h), except the date. We believe there will come a time when an even larger majority no longer deem Alan Pardew worthy of their loyal support and we will be ready when that time comes, glad of the extra help.
We feel that this is not the club we love or the club we once knew, but that more and more this is a branch of Sports Direct run by a charlatan, acting as a puppet for his master.
These people must not be allowed to continue unopposed.
We will not stop until they are both gone.
Alan Pardew is just the start.
Howay the lads!