The £305million Saudi Arabia-backed bid to buy Newcastle United will be re-submitted if the club wins its arbitration case against the Premier League. The revelation that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally lobbied the Prime Minister is not believed to have forced the would-be buyers to reconsider. The Crown Prince urged Boris Johnson to “correct and reconsider” the “wrong” conclusion that he would be in charge of the club. This led to the government denying it was involved “at any point” over the failed bid and the attempts to revive it. However officials acknowledged that meetings had taken place between the Foreign Office and the Premier League and Johnson asked a senior No10 aide, Lord Eddie Lister — who is a Middle East expert — to take up the Crown Prince’s complaint. Despite the controversy, the buyers have not altered their stance and believe the issue remains a legal one with Newcastle having taken the Premier League to arbitration. The offer was withdrawn last July after the Saudis grew frustrated as the Premier League continued to deliberate whether the bid passed its owners and directors test. Throughout the past year, the bidders have continued to remain interested. The situation may have become more complicated had Newcastle been relegated, but that possibility now looks less likely, while there might be some re-negotiation of the final price due to the delay and the continued financial ramifications of the coronavirus pandemic. Newcastle takeover Q&A: Everything you need to know about £305m deal The Premier League maintained that it had not made a final decision on the takeover, despite 17 weeks of deliberation, although the issue has now gone to private arbitration which is permitted through the organisation’s rule book. The case has been brought by Newcastle, rather than the consortium which also includes Amanda Staveley’s PCP Capital Partners and the Reuben Brothers who, with PIF, had finally agreed a deal to buy the club from Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley last April as revealed by Telegraph Sport at the time. Ashley remains committed to selling to the consortium and is not believed to have held talks with any other bidders. However even the arbitration process is taking far longer than expected. It had been hoped it would be finalised in February but now into the middle of April it is understood the three-man panel has still not sat although none of the parties will confirm what is happening because it is deemed a confidential process. The delay is partly because Newcastle’s legal team, led by QC Nick de Marco, had unsuccessfully gone to the High Court to ask for the removal of Michael Beloff QC as chairman because he could be “biased” as he had previously advised the Premier League in relation to a potential change to its owners and directors test. The Premier League was placed under severe pressure because of the alleged Saudi involvement in the piracy of sports broadcasting — which they deny but which was detailed in a World Trade Organisation report — and the state’s human rights record. The row over the takeover centred on whether PIF is independent — as it claims — or an arm of the Saudi state. The Crown Prince, who is the de facto head of the country, is chairman but argues that it is a separate entity although his lobbying of the UK government has raised further questions. However he can argue that his actions are similar to Johnson intervening on behalf of a UK buyer wanting to acquire an overseas asset. The Premier League wrote to Newcastle after PIF pulled out, saying it had provisionally determined the investment vehicle was under the control of the Saudi state and could not be separated from the Crown Prince. They also argued that they had repeatedly asked the buyers to provide the necessary information for them to proceed. This is disputed — the buyers claim they answered every question asked of them — while Ashley will want to determine at the very least why it all took so long. The buyers have continued to follow the situation closely and accept it is now a legal issue that firstly has to be resolved through the Premier League’s arbitration process. If it finds in favour of the Premier League it remains to be seen whether further court action will be pursued. Should the Premier League lose the case then it would be a severe blow as to how it has conducted its business and, in particular, for chief executive Richard Masters. If Newcastle wins then Ashley, who is determined to complete the deal and has already been paid a deposit, will expect the takeover to go through. Neither Newcastle nor the Premier League were commenting on the issue but Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK, said: “The bid to buy Newcastle United was a blatant example of Saudi sports-washing, so it’s worrying that the prime minister would accede in any way to pressure from the Crown Prince over the deal. “This whole tangled affair only underlines how there needs to be a proper overhaul of the Premier League’s Owners’ and Directors’ test to provide proper human rights scrutiny of who is trying to buy into the glamour and prestige of English football.”
LONDON – Sheffield United's fate will be sealed on Saturday if they lose at Wolverhampton Wanderers and Newcastle United avoid defeat against West Ham United, although in reality relegation looked a certainty before Christmas. So-called 'second season syndrome' has claimed several clubs in the past, but Sheffield United's fall from grace has been both spectacular and surprising in equal measure.
Sheffield United’s fate will be sealed on Saturday if they lose at Wolverhampton Wanderers and Newcastle United avoid defeat against West Ham United, though in reality relegation looked a certainty before Christmas. So-called “second season syndrome” has claimed several clubs in the past, but Sheffield United’s fall from grace has been both spectacular and surprising in equal measure.
|Champions League (League Winners): Manchester City|
|Champions League (League Position): Manchester United, Leicester City, West Ham United|
|Europa Cup (League Position): Chelsea|
|Relegation (League Position): Fulham, West Bromwich Albion, Sheffield United|