We've all heard about the proposed movement by a segment of the Newcastle United fan base to plan a boycott of Sunday's match against Tottenham Hotspur, but I'd guess that few Spurs fans really know much about the discontent behind the movement. What's really behind this movement, and will it have any effect?
To put it bluntly, Newcastle are a hot mess right now. Toon have lost their last five EPL matches and have looked poor doing it. In fact, since John Carver took over as manager after the resignation of Alan Pardew, Newcastle are just 2-3-9. There is an extremely vocal, and some would argue minority, subset of Toon fans that are discontented with the way that Newcastle owner Mike Ashley has run the club for a few years, and that dissatisfaction is now manifesting itself in the form of protests, "Ashley Out" banners, and proposed match boycotts.
The #boycottspurs movement actually has very little to do with Tottenham Hotspur, despite the name. It's an attempt to publicly embarrass Ashley by showing empty seats in what is considered a big match against Spurs, and to try to force change by hitting the club in the pocketbook.
I would guess that there's a good portion of Spurs fans that would agree with what Toon supporters are doing here, having experienced their own frustrations with Daniel Levy. But here's the thing: as Jim McMeachin puts it over at Coming Home Newcastle, most of the Toon fans who would stay away from Sunday's match are season ticket holders, meaning that they've already paid their money to watch Newcastle play Tottenham. And while the boycott could keep home those who purchase single tickets to matches, the effect on income is likely to be low. Even if Toon fans stay home in droves, Mike Ashley will still have gotten most of his money for this match. The stadium may be half empty, but the effect is likely to be largely symbolic rather than material.
Let's also not forget the inherently fickle nature of football supporters in general. Step back six months and the same core group of Toon fans were calling for Alan Pardew to be sacked. They got exactly what they wanted, but their dissatisfaction hasn't abated now that Pardew has relocated to the "greener pastures" of London and Crystal Palace. And what happens if Newcastle suddenly turns its fortunes around? If the club starts playing well, will boycotting fans return? Will the campaign be silenced by a few good results?
As McMeachin writes, this can't be the end of it, either. If supporters, who say they love the club, really want to effect change at the very top of the leadership structure, the only way to do that is to engage in a long-term financial battle: stay home, don't purchase season tickets, don't attend matches, don't buy shirts. It's a long process, and with a supporter base as huge and as fiercely passionate as Newcastle has, it's a hard sell: in order to help the club, you must, at least in the short term, hurt the club.
For Tottenham, #boycottspurs ironically helps them: for every Toon fan that stays home it means one less vocal supporter in St. James' Park. Less home support hopefully means a reduced home pitch advantage and a greater chance of a Tottenham victory. That's good news for Spurs, but it remains to be seen whether this protest will, in the end, be good for Newcastle.