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Tuesday, March 24, 1998 Published at 07:55 GMT

Sport: Football

Newcastle Utd directors resign

The fans have spoken

The embattled Newcastle United Football Club directors at the centre of allegations that they made disparaging remarks about the club's fans and the city's women have resigned.

Caroline Beck reports from St James's Park for BBC Radio 4's Today programme (3' 14")
The Newcastle United Chairman, Freddie Shepherd, and his deputy Douglas Hall, bowed to pressure after a marathon meeting of the Premiership team's board.

Sir John Hall, the businessman credited with saving the club from ruin and the father of Douglas, has agreed to return to St James's Park until replacements for the directors are found.

[ image: Hall: resigns as his father returns]
Hall: resigns as his father returns
In a statement issued after the board meeting, which neither man attended, Newcastle United said: "Douglas Hall and Freddie Shepherd have decided to step down as directors of Newcastle United plc and Newcastle Football company.

"They have both arrived at this decision after long and careful consideration in order to ensure that the allegations made against them do not further affect Newcastle United and enable them to concentrate their energies in restoring their reputations.

"Nothing that has happened in the past week diminishes the success of Newcastle United."

[ image: Freddie Shepherd: out of the country]
Freddie Shepherd: out of the country
Sir Terence Harrison, Chairman of the club's parent company, Newcastle United plc, called for supporters to get behind the club.

"We hope these changes will enable us to put the difficult circumstances of the past 10 days behind us, and I call for everyone associated with Newcastle United to work together for its future success."


The Chairman of the Independent Supporters Association, Kevin Miles, has said he is pleased the fans have achieved "the only sensible outcome.

[ image: Sir John Hall: regarded as the club's saviour]
Sir John Hall: regarded as the club's saviour
"I'm glad to say there has been a response to fanpower," he said.

"There's a lesson here for millionnaire owners of football clubs anywhere - that if you treat the fans with contempt there's always a price to pay."

The resignations have come after more than a week of intense pressure on the pair and will come as a relief to a city which is so closely linked to its football club.

The allegations against Mr Hall and Mr Shepherd surfaced in the UK's News of the World Sunday newspaper.

The newspaper alleged that the pair visited Spanish brothels, described the team's star player Alan Shearer as Mary Poppins, laughed at fans for paying large sums for the club's shirts and labelled the city's women "dogs".

Shares rise

The resignations were announced as the club publicised its half-yearly profits, which have risen sharply, before tax, from £6.4m to £11.6m.

Turnover was £30.98m in the six months to January 31, compared with £24.58m the same time last year.

A rise in club shares also accompanied the news, gaining 6p to 101p after even higher gains in the first few minutes of trading.

Police investigation

Freddie Shepherd is believed to be out of the country after leaving with his wife at the weekend.

But while the club has sought to put a lid on the row, Newcastle's police have responded to a call from a local MP to investigate the matter.

A spokesman for Northumbria Police confirmed that they had received complaints and would look into any evidence put to them.

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