Following a call from Newcastle United (aka Mike Ashley)  for the upcoming arbitration between the club and the Premier League to be held in public, that has been repeated by both Newcastle Central MP the Rt Hon Chi Onwurah and the Newcastle United Supporters Trust.

The Trust recently drew praise from the Chair of the Fan Led Review into football governance, Tracey Crouch for the manner of its presentations setting out concerns with the oversight of the national game and the operation of Mike Ashley’s Newcastle United. That came after the co-ordinator of the consortia bid to buy Newcastle United (Saudi Arabian PIF, Reuben Bros and PCP), Amanda Staveley herself wrote to Crouch to implore the arbitration to be heard in public. That was also repeated in a near emotional appearance on Sky TV.

It is widely felt that the Premier League’s handling of the Newcastle United takeover, which was agreed between all parties in April 2020 was influenced by representations from the “Big 6” Premier League clubs who recently attempted to form part of a European Super League which was roundly condemned. the same Big 6 clubs suggested in proposals to the Premier League under “Operation Big Picture” that they should have powers to authorise or block takeovers of other Premier League clubs. That is considered to be indicative of their motives in respect of the Newcastle United takeover bid which was withdrawn almost 12 months ago.

It is also known that beIN sports of Qatar wrote to the Premier League to urge a blocking of the takeover. beIN have paid the Premier League for broadcasting rights to include the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) regions. Qatar is locked in an economic and diplomatic stand-off with Saudi Arabia and considered to be the motivating factor behind the efforts they have made to block the takeover. It should also be noted that Saudi Arabia remains on a piracy watch-list at the request of La Liga and UEFA due to TV piracy within Saudi Arabia and the country’s failure to co-operate in the closing down of BEOUTQ transmitter boxes.

The Trust’s letter to Secretary of State Dowden can be found here

We should add that whilst good governance and public relations relies upon the Premier League agreeing to the arbitration being held in public, that on its own will not facilitate the takeover from happening. Now will it mean the 3-judge panel find in Mike Ashley’s favour.

That will be dependent upon the club’s counsel, Nick De Marco demonstrating that the Premier League has behaved incorrectly in conducting the Owners & Directors Test and that it’s view of no separation between the Saudi state and Public Investment Fund is wrong. Were that to go the club’s way, there are still questions as to whether the takeover can proceed.

Holding the arbitration in public is not a winner takes all situation.

However, we now have a position where the sellers of Newcastle United want the arbitration want the arbitration held in public, as do the buyers, as does the MP for Newcastle Central (joined by other NE MPs) and the supporters representative body, the Newcastle United Supporters Trust. They may well be joined by the UK government in calling for public disclosure of the arguments within the arbitration to be made public too.

The only party resisting that or indeed declining to comment upon it at all is the Premier League.

The big question is why?

It can only be because they have something to hide.

But and to repeat endlessly, that does not mean Ashley will win the arbitration and be able to sell the club. It just means there are sources within the proceed which will damage and embarass the PL. That may not be enough to get the deal done however. It is important we retain that sense of proportion.

MICHAEL MARTIN