November 25, 2020

Premier League breaks silence on Newcastle takeover collapse

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CEO Richard Masters has said that the club’s prospective new owners turned down the league’s offer of independent arbitration

Premier League CEO Richard Masters has said Newcastle’s proposed new owners turned down the league’s offer of independent arbitration regarding their takeover bid, resulting in the collapse of the club’s sale.

Masters sent a letter to Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah in what was the league’s first official comments after the takeover bid led by the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund (PIF) collapsed last month.

“I fully appreciate that the issue of a potential change in the ownership of Newcastle United Football Club (NUFC) is of great importance to you, as the MP for the area and as a fan, as it is to NUFC’s entire fanbase, and I would like to deal directly with the questions you raise,” Masters wrote.

“In June, the Premier League board made a clear determination as to which entities it believed would have control over the club following the proposed acquisition, in accordance with the Premier League rules.

“Subsequently, the Premier League then asked each such person or entity to provide additional information, which would then have been used to consider the assessment of any possible disqualifying events.

“In this matter, the consortium disagreed with the Premier League’s determination that one entity would fall within the criteria requiring the provision of this information. The Premier League recognised this dispute, and offered the consortium the ability to have the matter determined by an independent arbitral tribunal if it wished to challenge the conclusion of the board.

“The consortium chose not to take up that offer, but nor did it procure the provision of the additional information. Later, it (or PIF specifically) voluntarily withdrew from the process.”

Onwurah responded on Twitter, saying the letter “acknowledges importance of fans & provides some new info but not the reassurance or transparency I know fans want.”

The £300 million ($390m) Saudi-led takeover bid was controversial from the beginning, with many warning against the bid due to Saudi Arabia’s human rights record as well as the country’s support for a pirate service that illegally streamed football matches.

Amanda Staveley, whose PCP Capital Partners would have taken ownership of 10 per cent of the club, said she was “heartbroken” after the takeover collapsed.

Amnesty International, meanwhile, celebrated the bid falling through, saying it was “always a blatant attempt by the government of Saudi Arabia to try to sportswash its abysmal human rights record.”