football

Newcastle 'threatened with Premier League expulsion' over Saudi takeover


Newcastle United saw their proposed takeover collapse last summer despite reaching an agreement with Saudi investors, and the Premier League have threatened that the club could be kicked out of the Premier League.

The Premier League threatened to throw Newcastle United out of the division after a heated argument regarding the club’s potential takeover, a tribunal heard on Wednesday.

Mike Ashley has been looking to sell the club for 14 years after admitting shortly after purchasing Newcastle back in 2007 that he wasn’t a hit with the fans, and he thought he’d finally found a buyer last year.

The Sports Direct CEO finally found a buyer willing to match his excessive £340million asking price as lead financier Amanda Staveley was backed by the Saudi state and their Public Investment Fund.

However, the Premier League continually delayed any approval, forcing the Saudi’s to back out of the deal, and now Ashley is seeking damages for the failed takeover while accusing the league of being “improperly influenced”.

It seemed like Ashley and Newcastle fans were finally going to get their wish, and the Magpies were on the brink of becoming one of the richest clubs in the world before the Saudi’s backed out due to their approaches being continually delayed by the Premier League.

The drama isn’t over yet though, as a Competition Appeal Tribunal on Wednesday reignited the feud which originally threatened Newcastle with ‘Premier League expulsion’, with Daniel Jowell QC acting for Ashley’s St James Holdings Ltd (SJHL) and leading the appeal.

Jowell told the hearing: “Notwithstanding its threats, the Premier League hasn’t carried through its threat to stop the club from participating in the competition.”

Jowell also accused the Premier League of being “improperly influenced” in reaching their decision over the proposed takeover that “effectively blocked” any move for the Saudi investors.

This didn’t end here though, as Jowell went on to say that the influence came via rival clubs and beIN, which owns the broadcast rights for the Premier League in the Middle East and north Africa.

Jowell argued: “At the same time that the Premier League was reaching its decision, beIN was in the midst of negotiations for a new three-year broadcast rights deal. [These were] going on behind closed doors and without competitive tender process.

“The [broadcast] deal was announced in December, after the takeover was effectively blocked by the Premier League decision.

“A number of major clubs that control or strongly influence the Premier League also joined in the lobbying against the deal. Mr Richard Masters held more than one direct meeting with beIN at this time.

“We say this lobbying distorted the Premier League’s fair and objective application of the rules. The result of all of this is that PIF pulled out of the takeover.”

Jowell claimed that Newcastle’s loss was “substantial” and that it currently “exceeds £10million”, before Adam Lewis QC, acting for the league had his say.

Lewis said that SJHL had to follow Football Association rules that ensures participants to go through the arbitration process in the first place and said the arbitration hearing connected to the takeover bid was meant to start on January 3 and continue for just over a week

Lewis therefore accused Newcastle for filing the competition claim, and told SJHL it had been an “abuse of process”.

The speaker on behalf of the Premier League claimed Newcastle’s attempts were to bring “improper pressure” on the league, and that it was Ashley’s “second bite at the cherry”, as their loss was purely hypothetical.

Lewis said: “There is nothing to show that the transaction will not go ahead if KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) is not assessed against the OADT (owners’ and directors’ test).”

The judge ruled that he would consider evidence and proceed with care to end Wednesday’s tribunal.





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