The club lost thousands of season-ticket holders during Mike Ashley’s time as owner, the latter years of which were punctuated by protests and boycotts.
Following a change in ownership last season – and a mid-season revival under head coach Eddie Howe – thousands of fans are waiting for details of a general sale of new season-tickets following last month’s deadline for renewals.
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NUST said: “It’s well known that there promises to be a good chunk of season tickets available for purchase in the summer, leading to many debates around how the club should distribute any available tickets.
“Demand is likely to be extremely high, so finding a system that rewards loyalty and history we believe is key to our proposal, whilst recognising the need to open the doors for new supporters.”
NUST proposed splitting sales into four different “pots”. They suggested the first pot of season-tickets should be made available to those who have previously cancelled.
The second pot would be opened to fans with a “purchase history”. This would recognise those who “haven’t been able to afford a season ticket up until this point”.
A third pot would be open to current season-ticket holders, allowing them to buy tickets for younger family members. The fourth pot would be a general sale.
NUST have also proposed a waiting list, which would have a “charge” to deter ticket touts, for fans once these pots have been emptied. The overall aim is to “keep tickets affordable – and in the hands of true fans”.
There weren’t enough seats to meet demand in the second half of the campaign as Howe and his team, backed by the club’s ambitious new ownership group, brought a feelgood factor back to St James’s Park.
The club told NUST a couple of years ago that it had 30,000 season-ticket holders, and last season the rest were sold on a match-by-match basis.
Premier League rules also state that clubs must keep back a number of tickets for matchday sales.
Rule R.6.9 states that clubs must “promote the availability of tickets by reserving a reasonable proportion (at least 5%) of them for sale to non-season ticket holders”.
United, which famously had a 10,000-name waiting list for season tickets in the 1990s before the stadium was expanded to its present 52,000 capacity, may well choose to keep back more than 5% of tickets for match-to-match sales.
Co-owner Mehrdad Ghodoussi revealed the determination of the club’s new owners to expand the stadium again in an interview earlier this year.
“We’ll definitely look at expanding it,” Ghodoussi told The Athletic in February. “If we can get it to 60,000 or 65,000, amazing.”
Stadium expansion, however, won’t be easy given that St James’s Park is hemmed in by the grade-1 listed Leazes Terrace. Land on Strawberry Place was also sold for development by Ashley, though work has not yet begun on the site.
Expansion, of course, is a long-term aim.
In the meantime, the club, which has to set aside 3,000 seats for away fans, must settle on a fair way to allocate new season-tickets – and that’s a quite a challenge.