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The BBC's Richard Wells
"They didn't read the small print"
 real 28k

The BBC's John Thorne reports
"Supporters turn tearful anger against club directors"
 real 28k

Thursday, 2 March, 2000, 20:02 GMT
Defeated fans face 80,000 bill
St James' Park
Fans say their seats were guaranteed for 10 years
Six Newcastle United fans who lost a legal battle over the rights to their seats have urged fellow supporters to donate money to help them launch an appeal.

The group, which took the Premiership club to court over its plans to turn their usual seats into a hospitality area, face legal costs of up to 80,000.

One of the six Magpies fans
Jane Duffy: Appeal to fans
The fans - representing 2,134 others - told the court they believed they were guaranteed the same seats for at least 10 years after buying bonds for 500 in 1994.

But Mr Justice Blackburne ruled after a four-day hearing that small print in the bond contract meant the club were able to move the fans.

After the hearing, Jane Duffy, one of the six, said the group was "staggered" by the costs incurred by the club - yet to be agreed in court.

She added: "This ruling, if unchallenged, will change irrevocably the face of football, legitimising the replacement by corporate interest of genuine supporters."


We now appeal to every fan of every club to back us in our fight and enable us to take our case to appeal

Jane Duffy
"We now appeal to every fan of every club to back us in our fight and enable us to take our case to appeal. It's in the interests of all of us."

The court heard the club costs were estimated at between 150,000 and 200,000.

The fans, whose legal team acted on a no win, no fee basis, are only covered by insurance for 118,500.

Even without the costs of an appeal, each fan faces a bill of more than 13,000.

The judge gave the supporters leave to appeal on the grounds that the club had misrepresented its original bond offer.

Club welcomes decision

The outcome of the courtroom clash was crucial for the company that owns Newcastle United.

It has massive debts to meet following the huge transfer deals of recent managers, and the construction work that is transforming St James Park into an football stadium masterpiece.

St James' Park
St James' Park is being redeveloped
Newcastle United plans to build a hospitality unit, as part of a 45 million redevelopment of the ground, which will accommodate an extra 15,000 supporters taking the capacity to 51,000.

After the hearing a spokesman for the club said: "Newcastle United naturally welcomes the decision of the court. It is advised that the court's judgment was correct in all respects and will be upheld in the event of an appeal.

"We are keen to ensure that any issues over costs are resolved as quickly as possible and we will be working towards an early resolution of them."

Keegan supported fans

The fans' case had been backed by England coach and former Newcastle manager Kevin Keegan.

Kevin Keegan
Keegan in 1994: Helped promote club's bond scheme
"Several times during the early stages of the bond scheme I can recall numerous occasions in which I met groups of fans and individuals who were attending St James's Park for the specific purpose of picking their specific seats," he said in a written statement read out at the hearing.

"On occasions people would spend two or three hours choosing their seats. I would often go and speak to these people and I could sense the importance they attached to choosing their own seats."

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See also:

06 Oct 99 |  The Company File
Newcastle Utd slumps off pitch
24 Mar 98 |  Football
Newcastle Utd directors resign
19 Mar 98 |  Football
Sack the board, chant Toon Army
16 Mar 98 |  Football
Scandal hits Newcastle shares
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