This is how Richard Masters tackled unrest at Newcastle United before takeover

Richard Masters had no idea what was coming a few months later when he sat down in the plush Nanjing II meeting room at the Shangri-La Hotel on the banks of Shanghai’s Huangpu River last summer.

Friday, 5th June 2020, 12:30 pm

None of us did. Back then, Masters was the Premier League’s interim chief executive following the departure of Richard Scudamore – and he wanted the job on a permanent basis.

Yet Masters and the Premier League were to be confronted with a pandemic which would see football suspended and its member clubs facing a £1billion liability.

Masters, of course, is also the man tasked with making a decision on the proposed £300million Newcastle United takeover.

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Richard Masters of Premier League speaks at the Premier League Football Forum in Shanghai, China.

Last July, he took a seat with a handful of journalists in China for the Premier League Asia Trophy.

Newcastle would take on West Ham United across the river at the Hongkou Stadium a few hours later.

Outside, the temperature was already well into the 30s. In the cool meeting room, Masters, confident and composed, spoke at length about the coming Premier League season. Nothing was off-limits.

Back on Tyneside, there were protests over the departure of manager Rafa Benitez. A boycott was planned for the season-opener against Arsenal.

“No one likes to see protests,” Masters told the Gazette. “In a perfect world, all fans would be gloriously happy with what’s going on at their club, but life isn’t like that. Football creates emotions and passions. That’s what’s great about it.”

Protests, of course, have punctuated Mike Ashley’s time as owner, and they’re not good for the Premier League brand.

Masters, diplomatically, added: “Obviously, we want all of our clubs to do well. We don’t want there to be fan protests, and neither does Mike Ashley and the people that run Newcastle United.

“I think what’s happened over the summer … Rafa has come to China, and the management and ownership have basically moved quickly to replace him. They’ve brought Steve Bruce in. That’s positive.”

Masters – who has had to address moral and piracy objections as the takeover is being funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund – knows that the narrative on Tyneside will be very different, going forward, if the sale is approved.