Newcastle fans launch takeover attempt

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The Independent Online

Newcastle fans formally launched a campaign today to buy the club.

They hope, by appealing to fans, banks and businesses, to raise sufficient funds to prise the club from owner Mike Ashley's grasp.

The sportswear tycoon recently took the club off the market - for the second time - after revealing he was prepared to part with the club for around £80million.

Ashley has faced repeated supporter demonstrations against his tenure, and last week incensed fans by changing the name of the club's famous old ground to the sportsdirect.com@St James' Park Stadium.

Newcastle United Supporters Trust (NUST), a not-for-profit organisation formed in the wake of former manager Kevin Keegan's constructive dismissal in September 2008, has spearheaded the campaign for him to leave.

It today asked fans to pledge funds, backed by a deposit, into a special bank account to be used as a war chest for a buyout.

It said further backers, including big names in the financial and business world, would be revealed in the coming days.

Launching the 'Yes We Can' Campaign on Newcastle and Gateshead's quaysides today, NUST spokesman Mark Jensen said the campaign had been months in the planning.

He said: "We have emailed over 40,000 supporters to ask them if and how they want to buy into the campaign to lead a city-wide bid to buy back the club.

"There are a number of ways supporters can buy into the model - which has been dubbed by the financial community as the 'Barcelona on the Tyne' - which would see a democratisation of the club to ensure that the current state of the club would not be repeated.

"The idea is based on fans investing in the club through a number of financial opportunities which will be held by a local solicitor in an escrow account to demonstrate to Ashley that the fans have proof of funds.

"Supporters will be asked to pledge 10% of their investment into this account and guaranteed that the money will be returned if the bid fails.

"It is clear that we have no knight in shining armour to end the charade at St James' Park so we must look at how we can do this ourselves.

"The club is a fantastic investment if run properly and we aim to attract the type of investors who will seek to bring back the values of integrity and honesty to the club.

"We've been in discussions with serious people in the city and beyond and they have thrown down the gauntlet to supporters to lead the charge.

"We've been obsessed by protest but this is the ultimate protest.

"If people want more info they can visit www.nust.org.uk and find out more.

"There are a range of ways to invest, but fans can be sure that it will be on a 'one investor one vote' basis with fans electing six fans' representatives through the Trust and a President who will bring in a professional team accountable to the fans ultimately.

"There are serious investors who want to back this idea because they can see the potential in the club. This is an investment which is not only ruled by the heart but by the head also."

A spokesman from independent fans' website nufc.com said: "A succession of real and imagined bids have failed to bring about a change of ownership at SJP and in the meantime, the dignity and standing of the club has steadily been eroded.

"Saturday's home game proved that unprecedented numbers of Newcastle supporters are sticking with the team, while demonstrating opposition to the current administration and their plans.

"There's never been a better time to try and channel the energy of those protests into something tangible. That's why we're pleased to support the efforts of these lads and lasses and we're interested in the detail of their proposals."

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