Exclusive: What next for Newcastle United takeover anti-competition case against the Premier League – their 'new' QC, possible timescales & how fans could watch hearing LIVE

Newcastle United are likely to discover the timescales surrounding their Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) claim within the next week to 10 days – and in a surprise twist fans could potentially watch proceedings LIVE.

Saturday, 8th May 2021, 4:00 pm
Updated Wednesday, 12th May 2021, 10:16 am

Hopes are high too, according to sources, that proceedings could reach a court date in less than six months, depending on the outcome of an impending hearing. Document disclosure, which is being sought by owner Mike Ashley could come much sooner.

It’s expected the club’s legal representatives, with those of the Premier League, will take part in a case management conference to determine whether, among other things, their case will be expedited. They should find out a date for this within the next seven to 10 days, according to sources.

With the claim now issued, and 14-day cooling off period passed, the hearing will work out whether Newcastle’s claim should be fast-tracked through a competition appeal tribunal (CAT), or run as a full-blown case.

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Owner of Sports Direct and Newcastle United, Mike Ashley arrives at the High Court in central London on July 3, 2017, to defend himself against a lawsuit filed by a former business associate.

And interestingly, this conference is a public matter and could, we’re told, be streamed, details of which will be announced on https://www.catribunal.org.uk/– allowing NUFC fans to see the club’s anti-competition initial skirmishes played out in the public domain.

The claim is totally separate to arbitration proceedings against the Premier League. Ashley is represented by Shaheed Fatima QC and Nick De Marco QC in arbitration – but the duo will not go into bat for him on this issue.

Ashley has employed a different legal team to fight this case, headed up by anti-competition specialist Danny Jowell QC, of Brick Court Chambers. This is the same chambers as Newcastle Consortium Supporters Ltd’s anti-competition QC Robert O’Donoghue.

Sources claim the expected timescale of a fast-track case would be around three to four months – although nothing can be absolutely guaranteed.

And while a full blown case would be longer – they can take years – sources also claim there is a possibility this could be heard in as little as six months. Disclosure of documents – anything from handwritten notes to digital records on devices of anyone agreed to have been involved – could take half that time.

The St James' Holdings vs the FA Premier League claim – submitted to the UK Competition Appeal Tribunal late last month – alleges the Premier League were in infringement of articles 101 and 102 of the Competition Act 1998.

The CAT is a specialist judicial body which hears and decides cases involving competition or economic regulatory issues.

This is what the court documents state: "The Claim states that the Defendant exercised its power to block the Proposed Takeover when it decided between June and September 2020 that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would be a director exercising “control” over NUFC, for the purposes of the Rules (“the Director Decision”).

"In reaching the Director Decision, the Defendant failed to apply the Rules in a fair, objective and non-discriminatory fashion and/or used its powers under the Rules for the improper purpose of promoting its own commercial interests and/or the interests of its business associates and/or certain of the PL member-clubs in a manner that was detrimental to competition and consumers.”

It continues: “As a result of the breaches by the Defendant, the Claimant has suffered loss and damage. In particular, the Claimant has lost the immediate sale, or lost the likely opportunity of an immediate sale of its shares in NUL (which owns NUFC) to the Consortium Company.”

The papers also reveal what St James' Holdings are seeking: “(1) Damages for loss of profit or, alternatively, loss of opportunity. (2) An injunction requiring the Defendant to withdraw the Director Decision and/or to reconsider the same. (3) Interest. (4) Costs. (5) Such further or other relief as the Tribunal considers appropriate.”

When approached by the Gazette, the Premier League issued a ‘no comment’ response on the latest legal action thrown their way by Mike Ashley.

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