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Newcaste United takeover: What’s going on?




Mike Ashley’s attempts to sell the club and the complicated goings on up north.

They say in life that “it’s the hope that kills you”. It goes without saying that football fans, Newcastle United fans in particular, are no strangers to this old adage. For many years now, the fans on Tyneside have yearned for change, desperate for an end to Mike Ashley’s ownership.

When the news broke of a Saudi-backed takeover, similar to that of Manchester City’s or PSG’s, many Geordies began dreaming of a new dawn for the club. Unfortunately, it’s been far from plain sailing since then. So, let’s look back at how the whole Newcastle United takeover has unfolded and when, if at all, the supports can expect a conclusion.

Sheikh Mansour (right) has invested heavily in Manchester City, transforming them into a global powerhouse.

Newcastle United Takeover: What Actually Happened?

Since 2007, Newcastle United Football Club has been owned by Mike Ashley. You may have heard of him.

After initially purchasing a 41.6% holding in the club in May, he secured ownership of the entire club two months later. Despite a relatively promising start, the ownership quickly became infamous and the relationship with the fans broke down completely.

Relegations, bizarre management choices, a severe lack of investment and of course that renaming of St James’ Park have left the supports desperate for change. The club was formally put up for sale in 2017, and rumours have circulated about potential buyers for the club ever since.

Mike Ashley’s reign as Newcastle owner has been plagued by protests.

False Dawn

False hopes, fabricated interested and fake news followed. That was until a takeover finally became a real possibility at the start of the year.

The BBC reported in April that Ashley had agreed to sell the club for a deal reportedly worth £300 million and had begun proceedings to finalise the takeover. Sounds simple right? Well not exactly.

The group of investors are backed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund (PIF) and headed by Amanda Staveley. Staveley in fact, helped broker the deal that led to Manchester City’s takeover in 2008.

At last, the Newcastle faithful could start dreaming of fresh start, big money signings and a bright future.  The Premier League just had to approve the deal. Could the Ashley reign finally be coming to an end?

Of course not. The long-suffering fans will seemingly have to wait a little longer as at the end of July, the consortium pulled out of the deal citing that:

“…the commercial agreement between the Investment Group and the club’s owners expired and our investment thesis could not be sustained”

According to sports journalist Dan Roan, the PIF had “ran out of patience” during the Premier League’s scrutinising of the deal and pulled the plug.

There were plenty of reported reasons for the delay. Saudi Arabia’s appalling human rights record and reports of television rights privacy issues plagued the bid from the outset. There was also the issue of who would be in control the football club.

Premier League Silence

More than 97% of Newcastle Supporters Trust members are in favour of the takeover and the Premier League’s lack of clarity over the delays did not work in their favour. Even the Prime Minister got involved at one point as he backed calls for the Premier League to, at the very least, make a statement on the failed takeover.

This came after over 6,000 NUST members wrote to their local MP’s following the collapse of the deal. The silence from one end of the deal, gave the consortium time to strike first. Time to free themselves of any blame regarding the break down.

Late last month, Staveley even accused other Premier League clubs of having an impact on the delays. Stating in The Times that “other clubs in the Premier League didn’t want it to happen”. An accusation that has been denied.

Make no mistake about it. Accusations like this are planned and with purpose. They wanted to form the narrative that the world is against Newcastle.

The league and its clubs are against the takeover of Newcastle United. They are actively against a fanbase, so desperate to see the back of Ashley.

The PIF are the good guys, right? Coming to the rescue of the fallen, North East giant. That’s certainly what they want us to think, and with silence coming from the other end of the deal. The Premier League began to look a bit guilty.

The Statement

That was until the CEO, Richard Masters, finally spoke on the matter earlier this month. Confirming they had reached an “impasse” regarding what entities were required to provide information to the Premier League.

Essentially, there was too much confusion surrounding who would actually own the football club. More specifically, how much involvement would Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman have on the day to day running of the club.

Premier League

People have been critical of the Premier League’s slow response to the takeover bid.

If he were to have any involvement, the Premier League would require specific information on him. The consortium said he would not be involved. The league didn’t agree. He is of course, the Chairman of the PIF, and would technically own 80% of the club in financial terms after the completion of the sale.

That being the case, you can forgive the Premier League for taking the PIF’s claims with a pinch of salt.

What Now?

After the collapse of the deal, a brief dialogue with fresh bidders, the Bellagraph Nova Group fell at the first hurdle. With rumours suggested they fell short of the £350 million wanted by the current owner. Meanwhile, Ashley remains in dialogue with the Middle East consortium.

As recently as the 20th August, Sky Sports reported that the Premier League had moved to assure the Newcastle United fans that a takeover of the football club is “still possible“. The general consensus is that this is not over yet. It’s up to the buyers to make the next move.

With the clarity of ownership remaining the big stumbling block, the ball is in the court of Staveley and the consortium to either come to an understanding with the Premier League or possibly, even go to an independent arbitration.

Yes. The mystery surrounding the involvement of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and his country’s human rights abuse remain an important topic of discussion.

But for the Magpies’ long-suffering fans, who have endured Ashley’s ownership for 13 years now, there is a sense of desperation. A desperation for new ownership. Any new ownership. Whether it would make them one of the richest clubs in the world or not.

Talks are still taking place between the two parties and the possibility of change remains high. Unfortunately, there may be no end to this Saudi Saga for a while. Expect more twists and turns in the near future.

We hope you enjoyed the article ‘Newcastle United takeover: What is going on?’. Do you think Newcastle will be under new ownership soon?

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