Quite the day for more noise around the “takeover” as the case between Newcastle United and the Premier League heads towards arbitration.

Not surprisingly, the letter Amanda Staveley sent publicly to the Rt Hon Tracey Crouch MP ran into sand.  Crouch is chair of the fan-led review of football governance and Staveley yesterday wrote to her imploring her intervention. Why she did that is uncertain as Crouch has no powers to intervene which she explained in a similarly public response:

“As part of the fan-led Review into football governance I, along with the panel, have heard 100 hours of oral submission from fan groups and others and certainly from fan representatives the lack of transparency in decision making has been a recurring theme. Newcastle United Supporters Trust gave an excellent account on behalf of fans at the club and its content has been noted and will now be considered as I begin to formulate my recommendations.

“However, the Review, and my chairmanship of it, is separate to Government and my involvement in issues that are occurring now is, I am afraid, beyond my jurisdiction. The Review will set out a future path for football building on both the success and failings of current structures. I must therefore counsel that if you require intervention in the proposed takeover of Newcastle United you must redirect your request to the and/or the Minister of Sport Nigel Huddleston”.

That was entirely an entirely predictable response and a wee bit baffling it went to Crouch in the first instance. It is unknown if Staveley has referred her concerns to Dowden and Henderson as advised. It would be baffling were Staveley not to do so.

 

However, the response provided an acknowledgement for the excellent job the Newcastle United Supporters Trust did in representing our concerns to the Fan Led Review.

Unfortunately, some of the less than cerebral amongst our number chose to spit abuse at Crouch over social media which she had to respond to explain her position. I know lots of us oscillate between boredom, frustration and exasperation with this whole takeover saga but there’s a few of our tribe that really need a crash course in how to win friends and influence people.

Newcastle Central MP, the Rt Hon Chi Onwurah however has written to the Premier League’s Chief Executive, Richard Masters today and the content of that letter is available here 

At the request of the Newcastle United Supporters Trust, Chi will also be writing to the Secretary of State for Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Oliver Dowden with the express purpose of pressing for the arbitration between United and the Premier League to be heard in public.

The current situation is that the buyers (via Amanda Staveley) wish the arbitration to be heard in public as do the sellers (Newcastle United via Mike Ashley). Add to that the Football Supporters Association, the Newcastle United Supporters Trust and the city’s elected Member of Parliament. The UK government has also pressed for greater transparency in football governance.

The only party which is currently ignoring calls for the arbitration to be held in public is the Premier League. What are they trying to hide?

For all of that, I will repeat to the point of boredom, whether the arbitration is heard in public or not is not the critical issue. It is a peripheral concern to the outcome which will depend squarely upon the question as to whether the Premier League conducted its Owners & Directors Test in the correct way and whether its position on the separation of the Public Investment Fund from the Saudi state was the correct one. That remains the same whether in public or private.

The notion that Prince Mohammed Bin Salman should submit to the Owners & Directors Test appears to my unqualified eye to be wholly ridiculous.

Obviously the activities of six self styled elite Premier League clubs in regard to Operation Big Picture and the doomed European Super League has fed notions that there has been a conspiracy to block the United takeover. That has been fed by Mike Ashley’s reference to “dark forces”.

There has been consistent reference to the influence of Qatari broadcaster beIN (which did write to the Premier League setting out its objections to the Saudi-backed Newcastle United takeover).

The Qataris and the Saudis have been locked in a diplomatic stand-off over several years and it is considered the former is set against the Saudi backed takeover and has used its influence over the Premier League to achieve that.

That said, the Saudis remain on a watch list for TV piracy at the request of La Liga and UEFA. Were the deal to somehow go through miraculously tomorrow, Saudi citizens would not be able to watch Newcastle United legally at the start of the season as things currently stand.

The latest move came today when Amanda Staveley appeared on SKY TV bemoaning the lack of progress in the takeover which she confirms was agreed last April/2020 but has still not been completed.

Staveley did not explain why the consortium refused the PL’s offer of arbitration then or deal with the question of the PIF publicly withdrawing their bid almost 12 months ago.

Neither has Mike Ashley explained his pointless appeal against the composition of the three judge arbitration panel which has added months to the process.

However for those who have not seen Staveley’s appearance on SKY, you can do here

Again, however a public arbitration process whilst being correct for all of the reasons stated will not of itself deliver an outcome we all want – namely a takeover of the club.

To win the case for arbitration, Ashley’s side will have to demonstrate the Premier League has not followed its own rules in regard to the Owners & Directors Test. That will rest on the shoulders of Nick De Marco QC acting for Ashley.

There are some in the media who judge that the bullishness of Ashley and Staveley in making these public calls is a sign of the confidence they have in their case.

They may well be right but they neglect to consider that the Premier League has so far not blinked and they themselves are playing for high stakes.

Any of the considerable damages awarded from the CAT action (were it prove to be successful) will have to come out of the Premier League’s coffers which will mean a loss to its constituent members, other clubs.

That isn’t something likely to delight them given how COVID-19 has ravaged PL club’s finances. CAT finding in favour of Ashley would also require the likely resignations of the PL’s Chief Executive Richard Masters and Chairman Gary Hoffman.

Interestingly in the short TV clip, Staveley speaks of a continued determination to buy Newcastle United.

Whether that determination would survive reverses in court-rooms remains to be seen but let us consider the saga of a takeover involving Amanda Staveley begun in 2017. We’re still no further forward.

We can all be forgiven for lavish dreams of tomorrow but in the here and now, we are heading towards the 2021/22 season in a shambolic fashion. The squad is shot with holes, the manager is hopeless and there’s little or no investment in talent anywhere near happening.

We are distracted by Euro 2020 and the never-ending twists and turns of a “takeover” which to my eye seems to be nowhere near completion. Newcastle United right now is in a potentially disastrous position and it seems folly for Ashley to put all of his eggs in a takeover basket.

More Ashley gambles with the future of a club that is increasingly difficult to find positives in.

Keep On, Keepin’ On …

 MICHAEL MARTIN