Former Newcastle Journal editor Brian Aitken has been appointed head of corporate affairs for Newcastle United.
The move follows his departure after 11 years as editor of the title in a round of cutbacks by Trinity Mirror in 2014.
Aitken’s appointment follows several years in which the club has had a rocky relationship with parts of the media.
It has barred all local journalists and the Daily Telegraph from media facilities after rows about coverage. In 2015, a deal with the Mirror and Sky Sports News meant other outlets were barred from interviewing the manager after the game. In 2014 a similar deal was apparently struck with The Sun.
Club managing director Lee Charnley said: “We’re excited to be bringing Brian on board. Whilst the club has many close, established relationships with businesses across the region and beyond, we recognise that we have, in some respects, become disconnected from the North East business community.
“We know we need to do more to be part of the region’s vibrant entrepreneurial scene and to give businesses the opportunity to be part of the club.
“We recognise that St James’ Park has the potential to sit at the very heart of regional business and we want to work closely with the business community to understand exactly what they need from us.
“We want to support regional businesses, both through their association with us and by giving them opportunities to do business in an exciting, iconic location. In turn we know that the club will be strengthened by nurturing those relationships.
“Over the coming months, our business development and partnership teams will be getting out to see businesses and business organisations to give them the opportunity to tell us what they want and need from Newcastle United.
“We’ll also be spending time with our existing customers, who will continue to help shape what we do and direct us in how we enhance our offering to the business world.
“In Brian, we have recruited someone who is well known and respected in the region and he will be working closely with Nicole Atkin, Head of Business Development, to liaise with businesses and gather intelligence on how we can all work better together.”
Aitken, who formed his own consultancy business after leaving Trinity Mirror, said: “I’m tremendously excited by the prospect of working with Lee and his team.
“Newcastle United is the biggest brand in the region and in my discussions with Lee it has been made clear that he wants to position the club at the heart of the North East’s business activities.
“They are open for business, and open to business. And with Rafa Benitez bringing the feel-good factor back to St James’ Park, there has never been a better time for the re-connection process to begin.
“The club are currently exploring the formation of a business partnership scheme, to be fully up and running for their 2017-18 season and I want to talk to as many people as possible now to hear what sort of member benefits they would like to see on offer.
“It’s a fantastic concept and I’m looking forward to working with Lee, Nicole and the club’s corporate sales and partnerships teams.”