On Friday we finally saw an answer from the Premier League to questions sent to them by fans, The Supporters Trust and more importantly in this case Member’s of Parliament. A letter to MP for Central Newcastle Chi Onwurah from Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters made the rounds on social media yesterday, detailing the leagues stance on the proposed takeover of Newcastle United by Saudi Arabia’s PIF, Amanda Staveley and the Reuben Brothers.
Although an answer came from the league, it does, on the face of it, pose more questions than it answers. It also seems to confirm some of the allegations from Amanda Staveley as to why the takeover stalled, it does also from the leagues point of view rubbish a few of them as well. So what does the letter say?
In the response to Ms Onwurah, the Premier League state that they offered the consortium, namely PIF to take the matter to an independent arbitration court. This would suggest that the League had rejected the proposed takeover, as this would be the legal path any prospective owner could take once a decision has been made. However by the league’s own admission, no decision was made, and the consortium pulled out before this avenue could be explored.
Now here comes the problem for the league. Within the takeover paperwork PIF were named as a partner of the consortium, with Yasir Al-Rumayyan being named as the future chairman of Newcastle United. As we have been told from all, the Premier League didn’t believe this and felt that the Saudi Government would hold a say in how the club was ran, or at least be a shadow director, and wanted clarification around this.
The consortium stand by the fact these answers were given to the league, and a statement to Sky Sports News last night, or at least a source within PIF, stated that assurances and clarification that the Saudi State would have no input into the club had come from the ‘highest possible source’ within the Saudi Royal Court!
If you add in the bit of information Neil Mitchell (everyone’s favourite Geordie Dentist) offered up last night on his ‘3 Amigo’s Show’ with Steve Wraith and Steve Hastie. In it Mitch tells us that Yasir Al-Rumayyan HAND DELIVERED a letter detailing this separation. This during a time when Saudi were in complete lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as Mitch states he would have to had authorisation from the highest possible entities. So its probably not a far jump to make that this authorisation came from Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman or indeed his father King Salman, you would also think authorisation would have to come from our own government for the trip.
Yet still the Premier league didn’t seem happy with the answer, essentially calling the Royal Family of Saudi Arabia liars! Yet the Premier league seem to be the only organisation that cannot separate the Saudi State from PIF. During this pandemic, PIF have been busy doing what they do best, and tat is investing! The have bought shares in Disney, BP, Carnival (the cruise liners) and LiveNation to name a few. In all of these investments it has been billed as PIF investing not the Saudi State, so why should the Premier league think they are different. It was also stated in the WTO report that they see PIF and the Saudi State as separate, yet the Premier League were adamant they were right?!
Which brings us onto the arbitration. The league seemingly would not let this go, and offered to go to arbitration on this point alone, and not wait until all the tests had been complete and an answered offered. This route could have added almost 18 months onto a process, and would have left the club essentially in no mans land! Ashley wants out, and that is clear to see, for the first time no blame can be put at his door, as it seems the Sports Direct owner is doing everything he can to get the deal passed. The route the League wanted to take, would have added like I say up to 18 months onto the process, but as they confirmed in their letter, they hadn’t yet covered all the points (piracy!), this could have been going on for over 2 years, so it is no wonder PIF led the consortium and walked away from the deal almost 2 weeks ago. A thread by @TheFootballLaw on twitter also stated why this path just didn’t make sense!
I’m not going to spend too much time on this point. There were allegations that several other member clubs had the ear should we say of the Premier League, namely Liverpool and Tottenham, to which the League stated:
The Owners and Directors Test is delegated to and carried out entirely by the Premier League board. Other member clubs have no role whatsoever in the approval process.
This seems a standard response, at no point are they going to say, “yeah we listened to the objections of other clubs, which includes clubs A,B and C”. They just are not going to open that can of worms! It is clear to anyone that the ‘Top 6’ have more power than the other 14 clubs, emphasised by an article recently that states before Masters was hired he had a secret meeting with Manchester United and Liverpool, then was later appointed.
If the Premier League had of confirmed this, or indeed whether any influence from beIN Sports had swayed them to sit on it, they may have well as sued themselves for malpractice, or at least corruption.
The League also stated that no leaks had been given to the press, stating that a lack of trust through leaks could stop further investment. On this I’m calling bullshit! Throughout this whole saga there have been ‘sources’ feeding various journalist’s everything they need. Now some sources came from the buying and selling side, so understandable, but by all accounts they seemed upbeat about the whole affair until around June, yet a tweet from Ben Jacobs confirms news was also coming from other sources.
So if there were no leaks, why has at least on Journalist confirmed hie was getting messages and updates from the League, as well as beIN Sports, who if the tests were as confidential as Masters would have us believe, would have no knowledge of what was going on behind closed doors.
Now as a journalist myself, or at least studying to be one, sources that will leak information could be a god send, when you struggle to get official word. But for Masters, or at least the lawyer who wrote the letter, to state nothing had been leaked, is either very naive, or is just covering their own backs. Either way it is smack in the face to all Newcastle fans who have had to put up with report after report through this whole thing.
Its starting to feel like the League that believes the crap that comes out of their mouths! And, to me anyway, don’t seem to put much into the intellect of football fans, for us to realise that was just a bold faced lie!
June seems to be the magic month as far as this takeover is concerned. There have been reports that the buying side, and the selling side were given unofficial ‘green lights’, or at least no ‘red flags’ in the first couple of months of the takeover. The letter to Ms. Onwurah states that in June the league made a clear distinction who they thought would have control of the club. It seems that June was the month this all fell down.
Now this is just opinion (need to cover myself!) but these dates seem to coincide with the date in which former Barclays Bank employee Gary Hoffman started as the Premier league Chairman.
This news was welcomed by a certain beIN Sports presenter, who claimed they were good friends from school, and had often stood side by side in the terraces as they watched Coventry City! Was this friendship the catalyst, we can only speculate, but it wouldn’t be far off to suggest I am adding 2+2 and getting 4.5!
This seems to be the £300m question! Through Jamie Rueben and Mehrdad Ghodoussi on twitter, the consortium are telling fans they are still in this, even if it is through cryptic tweets and likes. But at least we know they are there and to keep fighting. Any talk from a legal angle would in my opinion have to come from Mike Ashley.
To be fair to Ashley he has come out quite well in this whole saga. But in a period when he clearly wants shot of the club, and the high street is suffering due to the pandemic, this would have been the right time for Ashley to walk away with his money, and do what he does best, invest in retail. The Premier league who have seemingly found everyday they can to delay this, or force the Consortium to walk by audacious requests, will have to face the wrath of Ashley. We all know during his time as Newcastle owner, where everything he has done has been put into the media spotlight, he doesn’t like to lose, especially when it comes to his bank balance. This gives him 300 million reasons to fight.
This would also add extra embarrassment for the league, to have an owner of one of their member clubs sue them. This is just conjecture at the moment.
No doubt the moves made by Newcastle fans on social media, and the brilliant flag by Wor Flags, are working. The pressure also needs to come from the sellers or buyers now, or at the least a meeting in the middle. You get the sense this is far from over, but there needs to be an answer either way now! All I know for certain, is….
Richard Masters letter raises more questions than it answers!
To hear Mitch’s comments on the hand delivered letter its around the 40 minute mark! But give the whole video a watch, it is worth it!
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