'I feel this is the end-game for Mike Ashley': Newcastle United takeover verdict as PIF eye £300m deal

Will it? Won’t it? The Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia’s proposed takeover of Newcastle United continues to dominate the headlines - with fans again questioning whether this really could be the end of Mike Ashley.

Monday, 13th April 2020, 10:43 am
(Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Here our writers Liam Kennedy and Jordan Cronin discuss the latest takeover saga - answering all the key questions surrounding a potential deal:

Could this deal finally be the end of Mike Ashley or are we all set for another let down?

LK: "I definitely do feel this is the end-game for Mike Ashley at Newcastle. I cannot put a timeframe on any potential exit but I do think he really wants out this time. Will this bid succeed? Well, it is as far down the line as any attempt in recent years, with some sources suggesting it is almost done. Like you, I will not be holding my breath on this one, instead I'll just be cracking on and hoping, like everyone else out there."

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(Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images)

JC: "Like every other fan, I am choosing to remain very sceptical. This is the closest Ashley has come to selling the football club but given it has fallen through on every other occasion - and a deal is still yet to be agreed - it’s hard to envisage a new owner until it is in black and white. That said, one day, Ashley will sell Newcastle United. Perhaps unprecedented times will bring an unprecedented sale. Let’s hope so.”

How would you feel about a Saudi-state endorsed takeover of Newcastle United?

LK: "Well, of course, this is no simple matter. Ethically, a Saudi takeover would raise massive issues on the human rights front, and rightly so. This would be another big example of 'sportswashing' and a clear and obvious attempt by the Saudis to legitimise their business enterprise on the world stage, in spite of condemnation from the likes of Amnesty International. But should that really be a decision placed at the table of a football fan? Again, I don't think that is fair. Any fan just wants NUFC to thrive and succeed, it is not under Mike Ashley, it might under a Saudi-financed regime. Should this happen, and I hope it does, Newcastle fans should not be made to feel guilty about the human rights record, laws, indiscretions of their potential new owners, they should just be allowed to enjoy football again, a right which has been snatched away from them for the last 13 years."

JC: "As Liam mentioned, a potential takeover by the Saudis potentially brings huge ethical concerns but if they want to run Newcastle United as a legitimate business, invest millions/billions into the playing squad and the city as a whole, then why should that be taken away from fans? Ashley has allowed the football club to rot for too long and has practically sold it off bit by bit - most recently Strawberry Place. The club needs its soul back and fans need a club they call their own again. Now, I’m not saying a Saudi takeover would be guaranteed all that - but it could be a chance worth taking.”

(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Is there anything we can read into the recent acquisitions by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia?

LK: "The fund have made a number of poor investments in the past and are clearly trying to learn from the error of their ways in previous world financial downturns. For that reason they are buying up while the price is low. The thing about Newcastle is, Mike Ashley sets the price - and what he says goes. It is very interesting that PIF are taking this approach, and it does open the door to an NUFC purchase, but with the uncertainty around the Premier League remaining, I'd still be surprised to see any top flight club change hands, unless the landscape changes dramatically. To be fair, it's been changing hands dramatically almost daily of late."

Should PIF take control at United, what are the challenges they must face?

LK: "The problems at United are obvious, underinvestment at all levels has seen them slide from one of the most valuable, attractive clubs on the planet to way down the pecking order in the Premier League stakes. Beyond the training ground and other things, I'd like to see any new owner re-engage with a number of recent club legends who have been cut out by Ashley. Alan Shearer should be honoured more fittingly and Kevin Keegan should be given some kind of honorary role with the football club. He remains a catalyst for hope in all this gloom, for supporters of a number of generations."

(Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

JC: "The club practically needs full refurb from top to bottom. The training facilities have become a somewhat laughing stock and St James’s Park is in desperate need of toning down the Sports Direct advertisement - but that could stick around for a while even if a deal is concluded. You forget how iconic St James’s is until the rugby is played there and those signs are covered up. Investment on the playing side is obvious, but I’d prioritise reconnecting the club with the city and its supporters.”

And finally, do you think this deal will happen?

LK: "I'm 100% conflicted on this one - every ounce of me wishes for the end of Ashley at NUFC, but we have been burned so many times before. At this stage, I have heard enough doubts from well-placed sources to suggest doubts and for that reason I remain in the sceptics camp (Please prove me wrong, though!)."

JC: "I’ll always remain sceptical until I see any new owners pictured at St James’s Park, though I just hope the positive noises overrule the doubts. Indeed, my cans are staying in the fridge.”

(Photo credit should read PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)