Newcastle United 'threatened' with Premier League expulsion during takeover saga

Newcastle United were threatened with expulsion from the Premier League, according to a QC.

Wednesday, 29th September 2021, 6:23 pm
St James's Park.

That was one of the extraordinary claims made during an anti-competition jurisdiction hearing today.

Mike Ashley, the club’s owner, brought a case to the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) after the Premier League failed to approve a proposed takeover by a consortium which included Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) last year.

The unresolved issue was the separation between the Saudi state and PIF, which was to take an 80% stake in the club.

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Newcastle are also going through an arbitration process, with the week-long hearing set to start on January 3.

Adam Lewis QC, representing the Premier League, argued before the three-man panel that the issues in the CAT case were the same as those that will be addressed by a week-long arbitration hearing which is due to start on January 3.

Lewis – who claimed that the CAT case was an “abuse of process” – also insisted that the club was bound by Premier League rules, and that the takeover dispute should be resolved through its own processes.

However, Daniel Jowell QC, representing Ashley’s St James Holdings, said: “This is quite a different claim, and is a sound prima facie claim.”

Jowell also drew the panel’s attention to lobbying by beIN Sports, which has the Premier League’s broadcasting rights for the Middle East North Africa region. There was also opposition from other clubs, according to Jowell.

"At the time Premier League was reaching its decision, beIN was in the midst of negotiations with Premier League for another three-year rights deal,” said Jowell.

"It was very publicly reported at the time that beIN media group actively lobbied the Premier League against the takeover of Newcastle."

Ashley, United’s owner, is claiming loss and damages from the Premier League for a “loss of sale”.

Jowell also claimed that the Premier League had “threatened” to expel the club from the Premier League.

"Notwithstanding its threats, the Premier League hasn't carried through its threat to stop the club from participating in the competition,” said Jowell.

The panel will now consider the submissions before deciding whether the case can proceed.

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