Newcastle United’s Ashley renews demand for answers over thwarted Saudi deal

January 14 – The long-tailed but failed £300 million Newcastle United takeover bid led by the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund (PIP) that ended in floods of tears last July, might not be dead in the water. Certainly there is renewed pressure on the Premier League to further explain why it failed to approve the new ownership.

The consortium (80% led by PIP, alongside investment banker Amanda Staveley and the Reuben brothers) pulled out citing the “prolonged” wait for Premier League approval, and a change in commercial conditions.

Since then Newcastle owner Mike Ashley has demanded to know why the sale was not passed when it went through the Premier League’s Owners and Directors test.

Although government have told fan groups and questions from their MPs that the ownership decision was a matter for the Premier League, government has confirmed it held two meetings with the Premier League regarding the attempted takeover of Newcastle United.

The Newcastle Chronicle has reported that in a letter in reply to Blaydon MP Liz Trust, Premier League CEO Richard Masters said: “In relation to any specific ongoing legal matters Newcastle United  recently announced that they have commenced arbitration matters against the Premier League in connection with the proposed takeover of the club.

“Arbitrations are held in private and this is no exception,” said Masters.

“There are generally good reasons why parties choose to have disputes resolved by way of confidential arbitration: for example, it can be more informal, it protects sensitive information and it encourages honestly and frankness from parties and witnesses.”

Masters continued: “I would like to reiterate that it is the Premier League’s desire to have the matter resolved in timely matter.”

The tone of the Masters letter seems to suggest that a door will not be reopened for the Newcastle deal to be reignited. However, with Saudi Arabia having taken steps to end the blockade of its neighbour Qatar – home of influential Premier League broadcast rights holder beIN Sport – there is a suggestion that the political thawing could bring the club’s acquisition back into play.

Saudi Arabia have made clear their ambition to be a bigger player in regional and global sports markets. Toon fans may still get their wish of an end to Ashley’s ownerships, and Ashley may get his wish for £300 million.

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