Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley feels he has takeover 'winning hand'

Mike Ashley believes he has the ‘winning hand’ as Newcastle United’s legal representatives prepare to do battle on two takeover fronts this month.

Sunday, 4th July 2021, 7:00 am

However, the want for public hearings remains, with United’s representatives believing outside accountability is the surest way of a fair outcome in their legal wrangles.

United’s arbitration legal team, headed up by Shaheed Fatima QC and Nick De Marco QC, are sharpening their swords for a July battle with the Premier League over whether they applied their own laws correctly in the owners’ and directors’ test process. This process failed to make a determination on whose name should be above the door in light of a PCP Consortium buyout of the football club.

The Premier League wanted the Saudi state to be named as a director – even though there are said to be question marks about the legality of that – while the consortium, comprised of PCP Capital Partners, Reuben Brothers and the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, insist only directors put forward and nominated by themselves should be considered.

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And on the eve of battle, the culmination of legal planning and strategising stretching back to autumn 2020, Ashley, having splashed out seven figures on hiring a crack legal outfit, is understood to be confident red tape will be removed, allowing for the club to be taken off his hands.

In what timescale, however, it is not known. And, it must be remembered, Ashley had similar confidence last summer.

The push for a public arbitration is not said to come from a position of fearing the club will lose – this approach has been painted as desperation in some quarters – more from mistrust, which is something which has coloured the relationship between United and the top flight since indications the deal would be passed in May 2020, then wasn’t.

Ashley is said to have taken a more ‘hands on’ approach to the deal in recent weeks, which flies in the face of his general strategy when it comes to footballing matters at Newcastle United with the club again sleepwalking through a very quiet summer in the transfer market.

Newcastle United's English owner Mike Ashley (R) watches his side lose the English Premier League football match between Newcastle United and Brighton and Hove Albion at St James' Park in Newcastle upon Tyne, north-east England on September 20, 2020.
Newcastle United's English owner Mike Ashley (R) watches his side lose the English Premier League football match between Newcastle United and Brighton and Hove Albion at St James' Park in Newcastle upon Tyne, north-east England on September 20, 2020.

On the St James Holdings Ltd CAT case – early soundings are that it hasn’t been thrown out, as the Premier League desired, instead skirmishes are said, we’re told, to have moved on to whether any hearings should be conducted in private.

Meanwhile, Ashley’s call to arms for fans to again push for a public arbitration has largely, rightly or wrongly, fallen on deaf ears.

It was always a stretch to ask fans to push again and contact MPs and other organisations to ask for change, given many have done it on more than one occasion already in the last 12 months.

Amanda Staveley’s call last year sparked a remarkable response on social media and beyond, with fans flooding inboxes everywhere with their displeasure at perceived wrongdoing in deal decision making.

On Saturday, Mehrdad Ghodoussi tweeted the chair of the government's fan-led review of English football governance, Tracey Crouch MP, calling for her to look into what has gone on at Newcastle.

He said: “Delay tactics, zero transparency. Fans deserve better. @tracey_crouch please look into this #NUFC.”

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