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If Rafa goes we go: Will Newcastle United fans stay away?

Tuesday 31st July 2018

The Newcastle United fans' relationship with the club has certainly been an interesting one since Mike Ashley took over; with Magpies owner constantly in the headlines. However, the latest stay of defiance from supporters may be the most important, under the slogan, 'if Rafa goes we go'.

Since being appointed as manager, Rafael Benitez has become arguably the most popular Newcastle manager in recent times. Sure, that's largely down to guiding the Geordie club back to the Premier League at the first attempt, but the St James' Park faithful recognise what a world-class coach they have on their hands.

However, during the 2017/18 campaign, pressure continued to rise on Tyneside after businesswomen Amanda Staveley looked set to buy-out Ashley for around £250million; before the deal fell through. 

Benitez continued to make it clear that without backing for his team on the pitch, the Spaniard would not be able to stay. This has been a constant theme since he took charge but even more so since the club returned to the Premier League. However, potential investment this summer from Ashley has not come to fruition, leading to further speculation that the former Liverpool gaffer won't be sticking around.

From his point of the view, the frustration is understandable. With the amount of money needed to even maintain top-flight status, it is hard for Newcastle to push on without serious investment. Time and time again, Ashley has shown he is not prepared to spend big. 

The fans have protested a lot against Ashley, with limited to no success. However, now they look prepared to make the biggest stand so far.

If Rafa Goes we Go

Over the last decade, England has seen many clubs' fans stage protests against their owners, Blackpool, Coventry and Charlton to name a few. However, none have done so on a big stage at the very top level.

The 'if Rafa goes, we go' movement has been set up as a voice on social media for the Newcastle fans in protest against Ashley. As the slogan says, if Benitez is forced out of the club due to lack of investment; the fans will boycott the club, too...

Currently the group has two pages collecting signatures with the below outline for both.

“We’ve had enough of Mike Ashley and the way he runs Newcastle United Football Club. We respect and value Rafa Benitez.
We think (we fear) that this could be his last season as our manager. We will do everything possible to keep him here. Failing that, if he goes we go.”

They have set up two separate petitions, one for those who attend matches, signing to say they will not attend going forward if Benitez leaves the club. So far 479 have put their name down.

The second petition is for those who don’t or aren’t able to attend matches. For this, they are asking people to not spend any money at Sports Direct, or at Newcastle United while Ashley is in charge or until a deal is agreed for Rafa. This petition so far has 1680 signatures.

Will the movement have any impact?

I am a huge believer in fan power, but at times you have to question the impact it could have. Virtually none, if any, Newcastle fans support Ashley, but how many would actually go through with not attending matches?

He is a businessman and everything he does at the club resembles that, it is all about profit for him. If no one was going to games it would hurt him financially. However, if you look at the petition the number who have stated they will not attend is tiny in proportion to their attendances. Even if they do stay away Newcastle United are one of the best-supported teams in the country; others will still snap the chance to get tickets to games if people are refusing to go.

The Twitter page which has been the main source of their social media output has over 14k followers. In reality, again, this is a tiny portion of the fans.
One poll ran on their social media page asked if fans are for or against action being taken during the 90 minutes of matches. This would certainly annoy Ashley, but considering supporters have been protesting against him for a long time, I don’t think this would have any further impact.

Newcastle United have such potential which has been handcuffed by Ashley since he took over. This is arguably the biggest stand, as one, that the fans have made against him. It will be interesting to see what happens and how far they are willing to go in the coming months as the season gets underway.

Despite this, I don’t think it will have any impact on Ashley. With what we have seen so far in his reign in charge, I believe he will do it his own way and if Benitez leaves so be it. 

For me, protest or not, Newcastle’s only hope is someone who can come in and take the club off Ashley, easier said than done. 

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Simon Hahn

Lifelong sufferer following Darlington FC from League Two to the Northern League. Freelance Sports and data journalist. Living for 3pm on Saturday.

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