Premier League issue response to Newcastle United takeover legal development
This morning the Premier League were handed legal papers by a serving officer at their London HQ relating to their carrying out of the owners’ and directors’ test as part of the stalled Newcastle United takeover process.
Earlier this year the largely Saudi financed consortium agreed a deal with Mike Ashley to acquire the club from the Sports Direct tycoon for around £300 million - a fee which the Gazette understands has since risen.
Paperwork was formally filed with the Premier League in March and the exhaustive Premier League owners' and directors' tests began. Tests which were meant to take around six weeks and revealed 'no red flags' til June were halted on July 30 when the buyers - Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF), PCP Capital Partners and Reuben Brothers - withdrew from the process citing, among other things, 'the prolonged process under the current circumstances coupled with global uncertainty'.
Despite the withdrawal the deal remained very much on the table for all parties, especially with the league not giving a definitive decision on their O&D tests.
Fresh pressure was applied from behind the scenes and hope was renewed that a Premier League decision could be close in September only for talks to again fail to reach a conclusion, resulting in an explosive statement from owner Mike Ashley.
It read: "Newcastle United can confirm that the Premier League has rejected a takeover bid made by PCP Capital Partners, the Reuben Brothers and the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia (PIF) based on its Owners and Directors test.
"This conclusion has been reached despite the club providing the Premier League with overwhelming evidence and legal opinions that PIF is independent and autonomous of the Saudi Arabian government.
"The club and its owners do not accept that Premier League chief executive Richard Masters and the Premier League have acted appropriately in relation to this matter and will be considering all relevant options available to them.
"Mike Ashley understands fans’ frustrations and would like to reassure them that he has been fully committed to ensuring this takeover process reached completion as he felt it was in the best interests of the club."
Again, despite this statement, the bid has still, to this day, yet to be formally rejected by the league.
QCs Nick De Marco and Shaheed Fatima have since been appointed by Ashley as things started to get legal but with timescales of the essence, re the validity of the deal, this fan-led push has been backed by all involved, including the QCs.
Fans Gordon Stein and Keith Patterson, of NCSL, this morning issued a ‘Letter Before Action’ to the Premier League.
In the explosive letter and legal papers, seen by the Gazette, documents claim the halting of the £300million deal to buy United was against UK anti-competition law.
When quizzed on the subject by the Gazette, the Premier League advised they would not be making any comment or offering any guidance, as they had done so throughout the process.
The legal documentation states the Premier League have until November 3 to respond the the letter.
It reads: “Supporters request a detailed response to this Letter Before Action by 4pm on 3 November 2020 and if you intend to contest the claim, to supply clear and precise reasons and copies of the relevant key documents described above.
“Absent a satisfactory response within the time period indicated above, the Supporters intend to commence legal proceedings forthwith against EPL for declarator in respect of breach of competition law.
“In view of the urgency of this matter for the Supporters, and in particular with the new transfer window due to close at the end of January 2021, we will be seeking expedition of these proceedings on the question 9 of breach of competition law as this will be the last opportunity for new owners to invest in improved
players to significantly reduce the ongoing threat of relegation in 2021 which would almost certainly make the proposed Consortium takeover untenable. Please let us know if you would agree to expedition.”
Meanwhile, Mike Ashley’s PR guru Keith Bishop has reiterated the United owner’s stance on Premier League PPV.
Ashley released a statement last night via the club website calling on a review of the £14.95 pricing of games for fans.
It read: "I am calling on the Premier League to immediately act and review its current pay-per-view arrangements for live matches in the UK.
"Charging £14.95 for single televised matches in the current climate it is not acceptable to any football fan.
"Supporters have overwhelmingly rejected this offer and the Premier League must now act.
"Why not make it much more accessible at £4.95 per match until Christmas?
"The Government should waive VAT on the above pay-per-view matches so that as many of those who are unable to attend matches in person can at least watch their team.
"The profit from the above reduced-price pay-per-view option, I would suggest that 50% would be retained by Premier League and 50% would go to the football pyramid below.
"As a club, Newcastle United did vote in favour of the pay-per-view proposal, but to be clear, this was because there were no realistic or any viable alternatives put forward to enable supporters to watch matches."
And speaking to Sky Sports News, Bishop said: “We have went through a terrible time with COVID with people losing their jobs and a lot of people see football as a light relief and I know Mike wants to make football more affordable to them," Bishop said.
"I know Mike will want full support on this because it is the right thing to do, to make football more affordable at this particular time."