The rollercoaster ride that is being a Newcastle fan looks like to be gaining speed again. If we are completely honest it never really looked like slowing down. You could be forgiven for thinking the high this week, or at least the biggest news of note, would be the triple signings of Callum Wilson, Ryan Fraser and Jamal Lewis at the beginning of the week.
But as the case often is with Newcastle, nothing is ever that simple. News broke on Wednesday night, that the potential takeover by Amanda Staveley’s PCP Capital Partner’s group, the Reuben Brothers and Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) had been officially rejected by the Premier League.
You could be forgiven for thinking that was an end to it. But no, the club the released a statement, essentially calling out the Premier league, and how they had handled the whole affair, with current owner Mike Ashley even saying that all options are being looked at.
It is not hard to decipher what those options are. There is a very real possibility that Mike Ashley will start some form of legal proceedings against the Premier League, more than likely in the form of an appeal. Looking at some reports that came out late last night, and that continue into this morning, Ashley has been advised he has a strong case against the league.
Those same reports also suggest that the Government had helped to try and push the takeover through, with the ever reliable George Caulkin stating that everyone expected a ‘yes’ up until yesterdays official rejection.
Letters sent out and released by the Premier League over recent weeks have also detailed an option they gave the consortium. With the main sticking point seemingly being whether PIF and the Saudi Government are separate, the League offered a form of arbitration to solve this dispute, which was not taken up by the consortium, which led to their withdrawal at the end of July.
If, and more likely when, Ashley takes up proceedings against the Premier League and chief executive Richard Masters, it would be an unprecedented move, for a member club to take the league to court. In the history of the league, I don’t think this has ever happened, and would certainly be a first. The other option is to whether take this to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), or the High Court in London.
Owners and Directors test
All three parties seem to be in agreement as to why the takeover fell through. The Premier league were in the belief that PIF were not separate from the Saudi Government, and wanted clarification, to make sure there were no outside sources, or ‘shadow directors’ that could influence the club. Essentially taking away the argument of piracy and human rights, even though you would feel the issue of piracy would have been addressed at some point.
Both the consortium and the club, have said that they provided detailed documentation that the two were in fact separate, with the club saying in a statement last night:
This conclusion has been reached despite the club providing the Premier League with overwhelming evidence and legal opinions that PIF is independent and autonomous of the Saudi Arabian government.
On the face of it, when you look at PIF and specifically the board members it is easy to see where this confusion may have come from. The Premier league are use to dealing with individual groups when it comes to Takeovers, not sovereign wealth funds and countries, despite the similarities in the Manchester City model, whose tests were run by for chief Peter Scudamore, not Richard Masters.
Masters himself has tried to reiterate that the Owners and Directors Test is objective not subjective! This does not however seem to be the case, if plenty of evidence to prove the separation had been given to the Premier League board.
The Oxford Dictionary’s definition for both is as follows:
Objective – (of a person or their judgement) not influenced by personal feelings or opinions in considering and representing facts
Subjective – Based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions.
The fact that the Premier league continued to stick to THEIR claim that PIF and the Saudi Government were one and the same, despite legal documentation, and a letter from the Saudi court, giving evidence to the contrary, would lead you to believe that that part of the ODT at least was subjective.
There have been allegations that the Premier league have been influenced by outside sources (i.e. other member clubs, beIN Sports), which have been refuted time and time again by Masters. However from the outside looking in, it is hard to not believe that something has been said.
Gary Hoffman started at the League at the beginning of June. The submission of the ODT was given at the beginning of April. Yet many report that Hoffman was on the board to decide whether the Takeover should be approved. This seems to have a conflict of interests, with Hoffman being ‘very good friends’ with beIN Sports presenter Richard Keys, and his former employers Barclays Bank are currently stuck in a legal battle with Amanda Staveley! There are dots there to join, and it is no wonder that the fanbase and Mike Ashley feel annoyed at how this has been handled by the Premier league.
This is the big question surrounding all of this! What next? Even with the news last night, there is no guarantee anything will change. We need to prepare ourselves for the very real possibility that nothing will change.
There have been reports that PIF will only come back to the table if the deal were to be accepted. Which might explain why the Takeover was eventually rejected, the consortium would have had to put the deal back on the table for the League to consider. As it stood, they had withdrawn, so no decision was needed, the fact there has now been one would suggest it was ‘live’ again.
The options Ashley takes will also be telling. Does he go for compensation, or does he go through the appeal to force the hand of the League, and get them to accept from a legal standpoint that PIF and the Saudi Government are separate. There is no short term solution to this. As it stands the deal is OFF, and Mike Ashley will remain owner of Newcastle United for the foreseeable future.
This does not take away from the fact, for the first time in 13 years we know that Ashley is a willing seller, and wants to wash his hands of the club. Whether he is able to do that with the PCP led consortium only time will tell, and that does seem to be his preferred option. There are other options out there for him (I don’t mean Henry Mauriss), but as it stands it would seem he has all his eggs in one basket.
With the Premier league starting again on Saturday, it would seem that Newcastle have two upcoming fixtures! The opening fixture away to West Ham, where we get the chance to see our new signings in action. And the fixture that is most important to Mike Ashley and his bank balance:
Newcastle United vs The Premier League!