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Douglas Hall Interview
Transcribed from The Sunday Sun March 18th 2001

After three years in the wilderness, Douglas Hall is back - and shooting from the hip like never before. 

He is speaking of superstar signings a la Rivaldo. He is making boasts baiting Sunderland, Manchester United and even Barcelona.

And, perhaps most surprisingly of all, he is talking about the development of an even larger St James's Park. 

The son of former supremo Sir John and owner of 47.2 per cent of the club, Douglas remains United's deputy chairman but has been rarely seen and never heard since the Toongate scandal, which erupted in March 1998.

But he has emerged to delivered a grand vision of the Magpies' future which even his gregarious father would have struggled to match. 

Chief among them that Newcastle are bigger than Barcelona and have more money to invest in the new transfer market than Manchester United. 

That will be news to supporters who have seen the Magpies' tread water in the Premiership for three years and manager Bobby Robson starved of funds this season. 

But Hall maintains that Newcastle's recent prudence has left them with the means to strike - and strike big - when the future of the transfer system is finally decided. 

"Newcastle United can compete with anybody in the transfer market," he says. "Because of the way the board have run the club over the past three years we have managed to get ourselves into a position financially where we believe we can compete with anybody. "I still believe Newcastle can still attract players of the highest calibre from anywhere in the world to come and play for us. "That is the ambition of the chairman, the board and myself, as the largest shareholder."

And the possible identity of those high calibre players?

"Rivaldo was my dream," Hall insists. "I've always believed Newcastle should attract players of the quality of Rivaldo. "We can guarantee Newcastle United fans that we will attract the best to Newcastle. "We'll not let the fans down. We'll invest heavily in the future of the club to provide them with a team to be proud of."

Despite the club's mediocre league form? Hall obviously believes so.

"Sunderland have tried to get Jan Koller, supposedly. They couldn't attract him. Would Newcastle, if they wanted Koller, have any problem attracting him? No. "Newcastle United can attract any player from anywhere in the world." 

Hall added: "In my opinion we're already bigger and more financially stable than the likes of Barcelona. "We mightn't be as successful on the pitch. But in that we don't have to have the Government helping us out with our debts like the Spanish clubs do, and that we've got a ground we are paying for correctly and in a sensible, prudent way, Newcastle United are bigger. "We're financially secure at the moment. There is no debt at this club that isn't manageable. The debt for the stadium is long-term and well financed. For the first time in a lot of years there's cash in the bank."

And more than enough for Hall to make another bold statement. 

"At the moment, at this precise second, our turnover is not as large as Manchester United's," he admits. "But we have possibly a larger stockpile of cash than Manchester United have because we haven't gone crazy over the last 12 months with regard to transfer fees. "Certain additions to the squad at very high wages if the transfer system disappears might be possible. "If the transfer system stays, we can compete, for example, for the likes of Rio Ferdinand. "But until we know whether the transfer system stays, goes, disappears or whatever, we're not going to be imprudent. "What we consider at the moment is that this club is the most financially sound it's ever been, with the best base to go forward from in the future. "Hopefully Bobby Robson can develop success on the park with some prudent purchases, be it spending transfer money or wages. But they won't be small - they'll be large."

And are Newcastle aiming to overhaul Manchester United's success on the field? "We always were," said Hall.

"We had one unlucky season where we blew a 12-point lead. "If we'd won the league that year, Newcastle United would be totally different to what it is now."

It would certainly boast a better share price, which currently stands at a quarter of its launch value. 

But Hall snarls: "The City underestimate the value of Newcastle United. There's nothing I can do about that. "It doesn't matter what story we tell them, they don't understand the potential, the value and the cashflow of this club. We've given up trying to tell them."

Perhaps they would take notice if Newcastle's revenue streams were to be boosted by a further increase in the capacity of St James's Park. Further expansion of United's newly extended 109-year-old ground had previously been thought impossible. But Hall demanded: 

"Who's to say that the ground development stops where we are? We don't know. "Because of the planning restrictions and the rest of it we'd have to negotiate very closely with the local council. "But I would hope, given a fair wind and given the fact that we are successful on the park and given the fact that we are financially successful, we can invest in increasing the size of the capacity." 

"There's no limit to how many Newcastle United fans will turn up at this ground if we're successful."
 
There seems no limit to Douglas Hall's optimism either.

I Will Never Sell My Shares

In the cut-throat world of modern football, the Hall family's reign at Newcastle has been one of the game's most dynamic dynasties.

And it is one that Douglas Hall insists will live on at St. James' Park long beyond his lifetime.

Although the man who presided over the Magpies' near-glorious recent past - Sir John Hall - is gone, his son insists the family name will continue to be writ large in United's future.

"Long may it continue" says Douglas. "The best thing I can do is pass the shares on to my children."

That directly contradicts recent claims that he was about to sell the 47.2% stake in the club he owns through Cameron Hall and an offshore trust.

But Hall insists it makes good business sense in anticipation of Newcastle reasserting themselves as major force. He adds, "Martin Edwards may have sold Manchester United for 12m a few years ago and look what he's got now." "I'd be crazy, absolutely crazy to get rid of my shareholding now."

And Hall maintains he never intended selling in the aftermath of the scandal which has seen him take a vow of silence for the last three years.

"I've hidden in the background. I've stayed away. I gotm ore than I could stand from the News of the World and it's taken me a while to come back" he says. "But it was not in my character to sell up. I never give up."

Newcastle Chairman Freddy Shepherd is delighted to hear of Hall's long-term commitment.

Hall - who lives abroad for most of the year - says, "I've been liaising with Freddy, who's run the club for three years under difficult circumstances without any credit at all"

Shepherd says of his role in United's past, present and future: "It was important to stabilise the club's position after Dalglish and Gullit.

"Bobby Robson has stabilised the position and we've now got a level platform. We've been unfortunate with injuries but we're now well poised to strike.....

"The Empire strikes back."



Neil Farrington

Page last updated 24 June, 2009