Newcastle United IS still up for sale but potential buyers are being put off by the "scrutiny" of owning the club

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley.
Newcastle owner Mike Ashley.

Newcastle United IS still up for sale - but potential buyers are being put off by the 'scrutiny' that comes from owning the Magpies.

That was the message from the club's latest fan forum at St James's Park as managing director Lee Charnley was quizzed about Mike Ashley's bid to sell up, transfers, Rafa Benitez's contract and the roles of Keith Bishop and Justin Barnes.

Following the release of the minutes from the forum, it was claimed Ashley would sell if the price was fair.

Ashley reportedly wants around £350million for the club but according to Newcastle representatives, potential investors may be put off.

"The club remains for sale," replied the panel when asked about Ashley's intentions.

"The club has a very clear and reasonable process for individuals or groups who express an interest in purchasing the club. There has not been a lot of serious interest and a sale is not close as it stands.

"The owner wants a fair price and has been open to the dating of payments to achieve a sale. In addition the buyer must be someone, or a group, that can take the football club forward and support it financially better than he can.

"It is important to disclose that there have been groups who have expressed an initial interest, but who have been discouraged with proceeding due to the visibility and scrutiny that comes with the football club."

The panel were also asked if the club were briefing against Rafa Benitez to the media as well as the manager's contract situation, to which they replied: "The club strongly rejected this and stressed its support for the manager.

"Individuals in the football community have their own opinions and most have chosen to lay fault with the club. The club would always prefer that any conversations behind the scenes remain private."

On Benitez's future they added: "The club is focused on Rafa Benítez and would like him to stay.

"The club has discussed this with the manager. There is a shared aim to improve training facilities but in prioritising its needs, the club feels its overall budget is currently better spent on the team."

The panel were also asked about the roles of Keith Bishop and Justin Barnes, to which they responded: "The club confirmed that Keith Bishop and his agency KBA give the club some strategic PR support but are not involved in the day-to-day operations, or decision making of the football club.

"KBA are a point of reference that can give advice, guidance and support in terms of PR strategy, or dealing with a particular media story."

On Barnes, they added: "With Mike Ashley taking on a wider role at Sports Direct, it was felt appropriate to have a conduit between the owner and the managing director at Newcastle United.

"Justin Barnes is not paid by the club and while he will give his view in discussions, he does not have decision-making powers at the football club."

The panel also maintained the squad was stronger than it was before the summer transfer window.