Now that the summer transfer window has closed and the new Premier League season is underway, the board of Newcastle United Football Club wish to present this review of our progress and set out our aims for the 2011/12 campaign and beyond.
Our return to top flight football was an exciting and successful one. Our target last season was to maintain Premier League status and we achieved that, and more. Finishing 12th in the Premier League was a significant achievement for a newly-promoted club.
Success requires real team effort and we witnessed that right across the club - from the spirit and determination in the dressing room and the passionate support in the stands, to the often unsung efforts of the hundreds of staff we have working for the Club through the week and on matchdays.
Everyone associated with Newcastle United wants success for this Club and we can assure supporters that the board is fully committed to achieving that success.
To make our ambitions clear to supporters and stakeholders, our aim for the 2011/2012 season is at least a top ten finish in the Barclays Premier League.
When Mike Ashley bought Newcastle United in 2007 he arrived with a clear five-year plan to get Newcastle United on a sound financial footing and the Club is now in far better shape financially than it has been for many years.
Our aim is to make Newcastle United self-financing. We cannot continue to acquire debt year after year and rely on additional financial support from the owner.
In 2008/09 we reported an operating loss before player trading of £37.7m. In 2009/10 that loss was £33.5m. Once audited, our accounts for 2010/11 are expected to show an operating loss of just £4.7m and this year we hope we will be close to breaking even.
We are pleased that the Club is working towards being able to operate within the boundaries of UEFA's Financial Fair Play rules, even during these challenging economic times.
Over the coming year we will continue to build the Club sustainably - on and off the field. We have a realistic view of what we can achieve at Newcastle and the time-frame required to achieve it. We have a strict spending policy and will not take a reckless approach which permits spending beyond our means. It is a sensible long-term plan for success and we have absolute confidence that this is the right model for Newcastle United.
Our priority during the summer transfer window was to secure exciting young players with huge potential that add real strength to the squad.
There are certain perceived 'big' clubs that have no financial constraints whatsoever. But for us as a club rash, short-term spending is not the answer and the days of Newcastle United acquiring 'trophy' signings who command huge salaries for past successes on the pitch are over.
Such players have generated excitement and anticipation in the past, of course, but ultimately they have left the Club poorer and with little to show for it in terms of our standing in the league and cup competitions.
Our focus now is to bring in players who can develop and fulfil their potential at Newcastle United. This does not however discount players of any age who we feel can add experience to the squad.
The board, the manager, our technical staff and our scouting team worked very well together to ensure we brought in seven top class players who represented excellent potential for the Club.
Yohan Cabaye, Sylvain Marveaux, Demba Ba and Gabriel Obertan were all brought in early in the window and they have settled quickly into the squad and performed well on the pitch. Medhi Abeid, another early signing, is already showing that he is a great prospect and we hope he will be pushing for a place in the first team this year.
We were delighted to bring Davide Santon from Inter Milan to the Club towards the end of the window and we are looking forward to seeing him perform over the coming weeks. We also brought in goalkeeper Rob Elliot from Charlton Athletic who is ensuring we have healthy competition for the number one spot.
Unlike many clubs in England, we endeavour to pay transfer fees in a timely manner rather than spreading payments over an unrealistic number of years. This is a far healthier financial model which gives us greater certainty over spending in future years. When Mike Ashley took over the Club, we were still paying fees for players who had already left. This is now, thankfully, a thing of the past. However the same cannot be said for all of the players we sell to other clubs, for whom we ordinarily receive dated payments over a period of years.
The Club's considerable wage bill this season has risen by seven per cent as a result of the salaries of our new signings and the wage increases awarded to existing players on new deals, such as the six-and-a-half year deal we agreed with Cheik Tiote in February.
Manager and coaching staff
The board was pleased to appoint Alan Pardew as the manager of Newcastle United in December 2010. Since arriving at the Club, Alan has strengthened the coaching and backroom staff and has implemented a number of new techniques which have transformed training procedures at the Club.
Alan Pardew, John Carver and the rest of our senior coaching staff, together with Graham Carr, our chief scout, are all on long-term contracts. This brings stability to the Club and shows the faith we have in these individuals.
We have some excellent young players amongst our current crop who have come through the Club's Academy system, some of whom have now broken into the first team, including Sammy Ameobi, Shane Ferguson and James Tavernier.
The board will continue to focus on strengthening the Development Squad to make sure we identify and nurture the region's wealth of talented youngsters, as well as bringing some of Europe's most exciting young prospects to Newcastle.
Last year the team experienced interruptions to their training schedule due to heavy snowfall and freezing conditions. Over the summer months we installed undersoil heating at the training ground which will ensure that winter training schedules this season are less adversely affected by bad weather.
Investment in our analytical equipment and staffing is reaping benefits too. We now have far greater statistical information about the team thanks to high-tech monitoring equipment and computer analysis, which means we can tailor training programmes to individual players and get the maximum performance from the team.
Our supporters yet again demonstrated tremendous loyalty and commitment to the team last season, with attendances at St. James' Park averaging close on 48,000. This support is greatly appreciated and is the envy of many clubs up and down the country. It would be impressive in any year, but during a recession when personal finances are still so stretched, it is even more so. The board, the manager and the players would like to thank fans sincerely for their support.
The board introduced a groundbreaking ten-year fixed-price deal for season tickets this year, for the first time payable in 12 monthly instalments. This was a genuine initiative aimed at rewarding fans' loyalty, providing them with some long-term certainty on ticket pricing, and offering more manageable monthly payments so that fans could continue to support the team at a time when the economic climate is making financial decisions even tougher for our supporters and their families. It has proved extremely popular, with more than two-thirds of all season tickets holders having taken advantage of this deal.
The capacity of the Family Enclosure has been increased from 5,000 to 6,500 seats, making it the largest dedicated family area in the Premier League. Demand for tickets in this area during the 2010/11 season regularly outstripped supply, and we wanted to ensure that all families who wished to enjoy football at St. James' Park could do so in a family-friendly environment. As a result of this initiative we now have an additional 1,000 children and their parents as season ticket holders in the Family Enclosure this year.
There is also now a new section of seating for supporters aged between 18 and 21-years-old. Season ticket prices in this section are more than £200 cheaper than a full adult season ticket in order to help young adults make the transition from the family enclosure to full adult seating at a price they can afford.
These initiatives are our way of thanking the fans for their support and making their visits to Newcastle United Football Club more accessible and affordable.
The 2010/11 season was a positive one for Newcastle United on and off the pitch. Our targets for the season were exceeded as the Club consolidated its position in the Premier League. We have set ourselves the target of at least a top ten finish this season and all our efforts will go into achieving that. The excellent start the team has already made in our first few fixtures bodes very well.
We are fully aware that Newcastle United holds a unique place in the lives of Geordies around the world. Our supporters are the lifeblood of the Club and the board understands that it has been charged with ensuring their Club is properly run and continues its growth both on and off the field over the next year and beyond.
In declaring our aims for this season we are demonstrating our commitment to taking this Club forward from what is now becoming a stronger and more healthy position.