Firstly, I agree completely that the whole CAT process is a side-show to the main event in the Newcastle United takeover, namely arbitration between Newcastle United and the Premier League.

For the avoidance of doubt, I passionately want this takeover to happen (if there is a chance of that) despite a whole range of reservations about Saudi Arabia etc. I am not about to fly Saudi flags around social media or kiss the arses of anyone within that regime. I have a single focus on what these people can do for Newcastle United. Nowt else. If they do end up owning Newcastle United, we’ll scrutinise them in the same way as anyone else and call them out if they are making bad calls. We aren’t in love with them and don’t want to be their mates. If they do a great job, we’ll say so too.

On 29/Sep/21, we learned the date set for the arbitration to re-commence will be from 3/Jan/22 and might take more than a week before a decision is made.

You’ll remember however, the initial arbitration proceedings stalled on the question of a failure on both sides to exchange documents.

However, the Premier League’s solicitors have confirmed that should arbitration decide there is separation between PIF and the Saudi state then the takeover will be approved and we’ll move on. That’s what the PL’s solicitors said but frankly I don’t swallow anything completely whole given where we’ve been over the last two years.

What is baffling is why this simple and most basic of information could not have been shared earlier with supporters by the Premier League in a spirit of being as transparent as possible? They appear to have no interest in that.

There may well be good reasons why the PL wants confidentiality in these undertakings but as snippets such as this were inevitably destined for the public domain, it just seems completely self-defeating for the PL’s relationships with supporters of one of its clubs to be treated so shoddily.

Anyway. The 3/Jan/22 it is then.

Some things we do know now then and some stuff that has been confirmed.

It is the Premier League who wishes to have all proceedings held in secret and keep information out of public view. The buyers and sellers in the deal are happy for everything to be in the open.

The Premier League have yet to set out their reasons for wishing for privacy. As a result a large section of our support is now of the unmovable belief this is due to a conspiracy to stop the takeover. It is a natural assumption to make. It may be a belief the buyer and seller wishes to grow legs and so embarrass the PL. It may be true. It may not. There are no certainties. But there is a strong whiff of something not being right.

Some things we learned though:

  • The Premier League were alleged to have been on the end of strong lobbying by Qatar based beIN who hold the TV rights for PL matches in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). It is alleged the Qataris had undue leverage in influencing the PL in its approach to the Saudi-backed takeover. That is something we began to hear in May 2020.
  • Richard Masters of the PL is alleged to have acted improperly in the tendering arrangements for those rights to the advantage of beIN
  • It is also alleged several PL clubs lobbied the PL against the takeover in what would be an obvious case of anti-competition and self-interest.
  • It is also alleged the PL threatened to expel Newcastle United from the Premier League because of issues related to the takeover. It is impossible not to draw comparisons between the PL’s attitude towards Newcastle United and those who wished to tear apart the actual PL and the fabric of English football with the ill-fated mooted European Super League.

Now, I hasten to add just because these allegations were made in open court, it does not mean they are proven and indeed it will be instructive if they were to be repeated by the buyer or seller in this takeover without court privilege. I don’t expect they will because neither put themselves in public view much at all.

In pursuit of the CAT case we have also learned:

  • Ashley prefers to sell to the Staveley-PIF-Reubens consortium
  • There are other credible bids on the table for Newcastle United
  • Ashley’s side submit he has suffered a loss in the adjusted price for NUFC between the point of offer and now
  • Ashley’s side submit that he has lost the benefit of that money since the offer and the present time
  • That PIF will not be there for however and may walk away without a resolution
  • The Telegraph and the Chronicle were rebuked by Ashley’s side for claims PIF were no longer at the table in the takeover

But the fundamentals of the CAT action are obvious – this is all about Mike Ashley’s wallet. The scheduling of arbitration and CAT proceedings make it clear, it is via arbitration that a resolution will be found.

Whether Ashley is motivated by spite in bringing the CAT action and as such getting some meaty allegations into the public domain is speculation … but that has been the result.

It is now crystal clear what is the position though we will all chew over every twist and turn of what is put out there between now and January.

Within the big picture, this process was not a good one for the Premier League’s credibility as independent, respected governors of the game. If you wanted to implement reforms and introduce an independent regulator, then this case is a fairly good case study of how poorly the PL operates and the mistrust and lack of credibility it has with matters such as this. It is a copper bottomed reason why football and not least the Premier League requires that independent regulator.

Let’s not even go there with the Premier League’s limp response to the Big 6 breakaway / ESL stuff.

The centrality of Justin Barnes involvement within the takeover is instructive too. He is a central player at Newcastle United but isn’t named as a director. He operates in a key function of the club but will have never submitted himself to the Owners & Directors Test, despite playing a fundamental role in the running of the club. The PL is asleep at the wheel in this regard.

The PL’s governance has holes in it you could drive a bus through.

There has been a bad smell around the PL’s handing of this takeover for quite some time and I’ll refer to this piece I wrote in May/2020 which was on the back of emerging disquiet at how things were going back then

http://true-faith.co.uk/takeover-smelling-a-rat/

PIF have made no public statement since withdrawing from the bid in 2020.

I can’t explain why PIF declined arbitration as part of the takeover process or how committed they are within the current round.

We don’t know if we get to Jan/22 and we have a similar stalling of arbitration proceedings as we had with the first round because of the lack of exchange of documents.

We don’t know if PIF or any other part of the consortium will be minded on the takeover if we look like we are going to get relegated in Jan/22.

Of course this is just my take as an interested observer and Newcastle United supporter. I don’t think there is one single version of the truth.

There are persuasive arguments the PL is running a cartel for the benefit of a golden circle of clubs who fear a well-resourced Newcastle United making life more difficult for them. The PL’s conduct is easily interpreted this way. If that is wrong, they are not demonstrating that.

There are others who regard that belief as the rolling-eyed paranoia of tin-foil hat wearing conspiracy theorists.

Who knows?

What I do know is CAT has begun to severely embarrass the Premier League, provided some information to supporters that wasn’t there previously and that January 2022 is absolutely critical to the future of Newcastle United and finally being rid of Ashley.

I would strongly recommend you listen to the Podcast – You Tube footage of the discussion between Alex Hurst and Yousef Hatem – as enclosed. Yousef is a legally qualified and experienced solicitor and more than knows his way around a court-room. He won’t ever claim omnipotence but he will explain the process in detail and provide an opinion on what’s going on. I like listening to experts.

But in fact, read and watch as much as you can on the subject and understand all of the angles. No-one knows everything and anyone that claims they do should be treated with suspicion.

Keep On, Keepin’ On … 

MICHAEL MARTIN