Yesterday saw possibly the worst day so far in the saga that is the Newcastle United Takeover. It wasn’t a gradual descent towards negativity, it came all at once, like a carpet bomb on our hopes and dreams. First came a series of articles from the Telegraph’s Luke Edwards, then the perceived final nail in the coffin from the Mirror’s Simon Bird, throw in another letter about human rights from earlier in the day, and the optimism was seeped out a majority of Newcastle fans.
Yes the meltdown was real, and we probably acted on impulse, but 24 hours on, the news from yesterday doesn’t seem as bad as it first did. I am not saying it is 100% positive, but it doesn’t seem on reflection to be an end to the takeover.
In this I will look at each point from yesterday, and try and add my own opinion to each, and see where we are from there.
The Mirror Piece
The piece in the Mirror last night stated that there was a chance the takeover could be ‘indefinitely stalled’ due to the fact that Saudi Arabia have banned beIN sports from broadcasting in the Kingdom, which is something that has not only caught us all off guard, but would not have pleased the Premier League one bit. There was an implication in the piece that “The Premier League are believed to be standing alongside its major £500m overseas rights holders beIN Sports”.
Although I do believe there may be some truth in this, it opens up the Premier League to more damages. As we have been made aware the deal is currently in the ‘Owners and Directors Test’ stage, and has been for several months, although it feels like years. In this test, that sets out a legal framework to decide whether someone is eligible to run a football club, nowhere does it say, is there a legal way to watch football in your country?
The Premier League have seen an opportunity to try and eradicate the issue of piracy within Saudi, and have used that too their advantage. This in all honesty will be the best chance the Premier league or anyone will have of sorting the issue. This seems no longer to be about the ODT, and more about the Premier League protecting their property, and by association that off beIN Sports.
I don’t think that is a bad thing, and by rights something should be done about it. However to put an issue that does not directly impact PIF’s, PCP’s, or the Reuben Brothers ability to run a Premier League football club at the forefront of their own designed test’s, is moving the goalposts quite considerably, and takes them completely outside the remit of those tests.
The Premier League may have been handed an ‘out’ though. A way to pass the test, and take away the possibility of piracy resurfacing in KSA, as this banning of beIN could lead to. That out has been handed to the Premier League by the WTO, and their report into piracy in the Kingdom. The request for a report was first brought forward by Qatar, and by proxy beIN Sports. Now this report did find in favour of Qatar on 1 out of 6 points, and agreed the Kingdom has to do more to prosecute those responsible for BeoutQ, but it also agreed with Saudi on points of national security.
There seems to be a precedent in the region with regards TV rights, and the national security of a certain country! Israel seem to have their own broadcast for Premier League rights, and comes under the MENA TV region, although as Ben Jacobs points out, they do participate in European qualifiers, due to their relationship with most of that region.
So could the Premier League go down this route for the time being? It would certainly seem to benefit the Premier League ad Saudi Arabia, and could the money used for this be funnelled from the Premiership to beIN Sports in terms of compensation.
So yes the banning of beIN Sports has thrown a spanner in the works, but only in terms of what the Premier League want to get out of this, and in noway should impact their own legal test’s towards possible directors and owners of a Premier League club.
Where to start on this one? Henry Mauriss has been mentioned several times over the past few months as a possible back-up bid to the one currently with the Premier League. I have no doubt in my mind that the offer of a bid is genuine. Yesterday brought more to it, when Luke Edwards wrote in The Telegraph that the American has stepped up his plot to but Newcastle, and would plan to keep Steve Bruce on.
There has also been talk that Mauriss, who owns Clear TV, has hired a PR firm to improve his image with Newcastle fans and the Premier League. My own view on that is, why hire a PR firm to improve your image unless you have something to hide? It could be that he has seen the support the current bid has from Newcastle fans, and may want to get us onside just in case!
Little to nothing is known about Mauriss, and moves to find out more about him from better journalist’s than me have drawn a blank. There have been implications that he is being investigated by the FBI for fraud. Although that implication does come in response from a ‘customer’ he has appeared in court in California on numerous occasions for fraud charges. The two specifically I found involved a company associated with Disney, and American Express. Both cases were either settled or thrown out by the court. So even though it does not look like he has any pending fraud cases against him, the history does not make for pleasant reading.
However, as pointed out by Steve Wraith and Liam Kennedy on Steve’s youtube channel last night, until the current bid is rejected, Mauriss in insignificant to the larger picture of the Takeover. If we ever reach a point where the current bid is rejected, and he will make his move (I don’t think we will). He will forever be the lonely child in the corner asking if he can play with the toys now!
There was an article yesterday morning, stating that a series of letters had been sent to the Premier league from a couple of Human Rights charities asking for the Saudi bid to be rejected.
No while I will fully support anyone fighting for Human Rights, and while I can understand their argument to a certain extent about Saudi, although in my opinion there are very few countries that are completely innocent in regards to human rights, but thats an argument for someone else, I do feel that any issue towards this issue brought towards the Premier League will fall on deaf ears.
I don’t doubt on a personal level that everyone that works within the Premier League or any sports body will care about human rights, but as a sport, football is morally corrupt. Russia are working towards banning gay marriage, and have long banned any homosexual activity in the country, yet they still hosted a World Cup. Amnesty International have written to FIFA to complain about the way in which workers building stadia for the Qatar World Cup are being treated, yet there is still to be a World Cup in Qatar.
Football as a whole only cares about one thing, and that is the money. When fans complain about the cost of tickets, do any authority step in and put a cap on it? NO! Did Project restart revolve around keeping sponsors and TV Rights holders happy? YES!
While I can see the argument put forward by these charities (regardless of their ties!) I feel that they are wasting their time in asking football to intervene.
So while yesterday was an onslaught of negative news, and other ‘options’ to the takeover, I firmly believe nothing has changed.
Do the Premier League need to sort how Saudi Arabia will watch football next season? Undoubtably yes, but is that covered in their own tests? No. For me it would be a lot easier to sort if they had Saudi around the table, if they keep getting them to jump through hoops, only to reject it and side with beIN, as has been stated in the Mirror, what incentive is their for Saudi to stop it? There are options there for the League to take, whether they do is up to them!
As sad as it sounds, the human rights issue is a non-starter in the takeover. Money talks in football, and thats the crux of it. But on the flip side, football is not there to solve the worlds problems, and neither are its fans.
Henry Mauriss for me will disappear as quickly as he appeared. Unless there is an opportunity for him, but lets hope it doesn’t get to that. While I am off the belief that you don’t need mega rich owners to do well in the Premier League (Mike Ashley is actually richer than Liverpool’s owners) you do need someone who is business savvy, in the cutthroat world of football, and Mauriss doesn’t tick any of those boxes for me!
So I’m still in the camp of this takeover will go through. I do not blame the various journalists for writing and putting out what they wrote yesterday, but there is certainly more to their words, and more that can be seen once you step back and see the wider picture.