It was today claimed that the Premier League has been “made aware” of a £340million bid financed by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia and backed by financier Amanda Staveley and the Reuben Brothers, who have property investments in Newcastle.
Newcastle and the Premier League have made no comment on the news, which was greeted by scepticism on a locked-down Tyneside.
And the Gazette understands that embattled owner Mike Ashley and senior officials are “bemused” by the latest report, which has come amid a worldwide lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
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Football has been suspended in England – and across the world – as efforts to tackle the fast-spreading virus are stepped up by governments.
We reported earlier this year that talks with the Saudi-backed group had broken down, and the Gazette understands that there is not a deal in place, with Ashley still waiting for a fully-funded bid for the club, which was put up for sale in October 2017.
Also, the latest report doesn’t make it clear when the Premier League was informed of the proposed bid, and that formal disclosure, in any case, would mean little without an agreed deal.
Ashley – who last week apologised for an ill-judged attempt to keep his Sports Direct shops open during the lockdown period – hasn’t closed the door on a sale to a group involving Staveley, who failed in a takeover bid two years ago.
However, given the suspension of Premier League football – and the wider economic problems caused by the coronavirus outbreak – a sale is unlikely in the near future, though the club remains on the market.
Newcastle were 13th in the division, and in the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, when fixtures were suspended.
Steve Bruce, United’s head coach, hopes that the season can be finished.
“We have to try and get this season finished, whatever that takes – everybody wants that,” said Bruce.
“But we must also remember that the health and safety of players and staff is far more important than football.”