What Richard Masters had to say about Newcastle United protests and Mike Ashley last summer

Newcastle United fans, understandably, want answers.

Thursday, 6th August 2020, 12:30 pm
Updated Thursday, 6th August 2020, 1:06 pm

The consortium led by Amanda Staveley pulled out after failing to get a timely response from the Premier League after submitting the takeover for approval in April.

And their questions, as yet, have gone unanswered.

The man at the centre of everything is Richard Masters, the Premier League’s chief executive.

Masters wasn’t a name many supporters were familiar with last summer, when he was in interim charge following the departure of Richard Scudamore.

The Premier League has said nothing since the investment group issued a statement blaming a “prolonged” approval process for its withdrawal.

Fans and North East MPs have all put questions to the Premier League, and Masters – who oversaw the successful restart of top-flight football following a three-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic – is under intense pressure to provide answers. The Gazette has submitted a list of questions to the Premier League, while the Newcastle United Supporters Trust has demanded answers.

Richard Masters.

Masters, however, had all the answers last July when he sat down with journalists in Shanghai.

Nothing was off-limits for a roundtable with a handful of journalists at the Shangri-La Hotel on the banks of Shanghai’s Huangpu River.

But that was before Covid-19. And it was also before Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund agreed a deal to buy Newcastle with Amanda Staveley and David and Simon Reuben.

Masters, coolly and confidently, tackled a range of subjects in an air-conditioned meeting room ahead of that days Premier League Asia Trophy fixtures, which would be played in searing heat and humidity at the Hongkou Stadium.

St James's Park.

There were questions on Manchester City’s dominance, broadcast revenues and long-shelved plans for a 39th game.

Masters was also asked about the protests on Tyneside over the departure of manager Rafa Benitez. A boycott was planned for the season-opener against Arsenal.

Empty seats and protests, of course, aren’t good for the Premier League’s global brand.

“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 have punctuated much of Mike Ashley’s time as United owner.

Masters, diplomatically, went on: “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.”

Fast forward to today, and the withdrawal of the bid is being seen on Tyneside as a massive negative given what it would have meant for the club – and the city.

And Masters and the Premier League are now the subject of protests from those same supporters who were calling for Ashley to go last summer.

A message from the Editor:

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers - and consequently the revenue we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.

Subscribe to the Shields Gazette website and enjoy unlimited access to local news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit here to sign up. You can subscribe to the newspaper with 20% off here. Thank you.