Premier League fail in bid to get Newcastle United takeover CAT case thrown out – but delays continue

The English Premier League appear to have failed in their attempts to get the St James Holdings Ltd Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) case thrown out, the Gazette understands.
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However, as confirmed by a recent Newcastle United statement, the Premier League are pushing for the anti-competitive complaint to be heard in private – and this top flight push has caused yet more delays to the legal process.

The Magpies are keen for every part of the decision-making process to be made public – and confirmed as much in their explosive Thursday night release.

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Mike Ashley Mike Ashley
Mike Ashley

The statement read: “The EPL Rules provide the entire arbitration process is confidential. However, both parties can agree for it to be in public. The club believes it should be.

“The issues at stake, including the lawfulness of the EPL’s decision making process and the widely publicised alleged influence of the EPL’s commercial partners on the EPL’s decisions, are of far wider interest to other football clubs, fans and the public in general.”

The statement continued: "Gone are the days when important decisions that affect clubs and their fans should be made secretly, behind closed doors and away from the public eye.

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“The club has nothing to hide with respect to the arbitration and invites the EPL to agree that it should no longer be held behind closed doors. If the EPL has acted lawfully and properly, it should have no reason to be afraid of the public spotlight.

“To date, the EPL has strongly resisted any public scrutiny of its decision-making process.”

The St James Holdings Ltd CAT claim alleges the Premier League were in infringement of articles 101 and 102 of the Competition Act 1998.

It is understood, having attempted to get the case thrown out on a ‘technicality’, their angle has now switched to making sure the case, usually played out in open court, is also run in private.

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When asked by the Gazette for a response, the Premier League issued a ‘no comment’ .

Newcastle Consortium Supporters Ltd director Keith Patterson has seen his anti-competition case taken on lock, stock and barrel by Newcastle United.

Patterson, who set up NCSL, on behalf of the fans, to challenge the Premier League legally in late 2020, said: “Mike Ashley and NUFC have had enough.

"Newcastle fans, the club and the consortium are all firmly on one side. All four parties have painstakingly waited more than 12 months for answers. But as Amanda Staveley and Ashley have said, this has to stop. It is time for NUFC fans to stand up and demand transparency.

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"Ashley has spent millions on this case and is now basically saying, ‘if it is transparent, and all put on the table in public then Newcastle fans will get their takeover’. However if the EPL gets their way, it’ll be a case framed by delays and privacy.”

Patterson, who has extensive experience in anti-competition law cases, added: “Having failed to get it (CAT case) thrown out the Premier League are now trying to get the case run in private.

“It will be a travesty if the EPL run the CAT case in private, as though it was a second arbitration. It is clearly, in my opinion, in public interest and deals with different issues.

"The EPL tried to get it thrown out on a technicality suggesting it was a similar case to the arbitration. A lawyer would tell you that an internal EPL owners’ and directors’ test cannot be comparable to a UK anti competition action.”

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The Premier League are yet to make a definitive decision on the proposed buyout of Newcastle United by the PCP Consortium, composed of PCP Capital Partners, the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia and property magnates, the Reuben Brothers.

The Gazette understands all parties remain at the table ready to complete the deal, provided a snag free route to regulatory approval is provided by the top flight.

The deal was agreed by all parties in March 2020, with the Premier League’s ODT evidence gathering taking place throughout the months of April, May and June. The consortium ‘publicly’ withdrew from the process in late July.

Meanwhile, Mike Ashley’s call for transparency from the Premier League has been backed by the Newcastle United Supporters Trust (NUST).

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Newcastle United’s owner is trying to resurrect a £300million sale to a consortium which included Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) through a legal process.

PIF withdrew last summer after the Premier League failed to make a timely decision on its approval.

Ashley wants the arbitration process to be made public, arguing the Premier League should “have no reason to be afraid of the public spotlight” if it has acted “lawfully and properly”.

The Premier League today declined to comment when Ashley’s demand was put to them.

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