Angry clubs have targeted the Premier League with complaints about the Newcastle United takeover and are pushing for an emergency meeting next week.
The other 19 top clubs are said to be united against a Saudi-led consortium being allowed to buy out Mike Ashley and demand to know what has changed for him to be rejected and why they have received so little funding. prior notice.
The emergency meeting request is not so much an attempt to derail the takeover – because it’s too late – as a reflection of the intensity of the feelings.
Clubs fear the Premier League brand could be damaged by the Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) taking an 80% stake in Newcastle, though eyebrows are raised given the identity of the other owners of the division. The deal has come under heavy criticism from human rights groups, especially since the PIF – the state’s sovereign wealth fund – is overseen by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The arrival of a new set of billionaire owners is sure to shock clubs who see a much more competitive Newcastle on the horizon and the prospect of St James’ Park wealth inflating transfer fees and salaries.
League general manager Richard Masters and chairman Gary Hoffman have received complaints from clubs who had no idea the Newcastle buyout was about to be approved. It was first offered in March 2020, but the consortium withdrew its offer four months later over growing fears of failing the Premier League owners and managers test.
The subject was not on the agenda of the last general assembly two weeks ago. The league effectively blocked the deal last year and it was ruled last week in a Competition Appeals Tribunal (CAT) involving Ashley and the league that arbitration proceedings to decide the case must begin. January 3.
It is understood that the clubs learned from the media on Wednesday of the impending takeover and received the league’s confirmation by email on Thursday at 5:18 pm. It was then that the league issued a statement saying the deal had been made and that it had “received legally binding assurances that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would not control Newcastle United”.
The league would undoubtedly point out that confidentiality and legality issues were preventing Newcastle developments from being shared. In addition, the credentials appointed by the league board of directors on the test of owners and directors were approved after a vote among the clubs.
League QC Adam Lewis had told CAT the deal could be done – although there was no suggestion it would happen so quickly. “If the arbitration decides that KSA [the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia] is not a director, the transaction can and will continue, with no question of the owners and directors test being applied to KSA, ”said Lewis.
Saudi Arabia has since lifted its ban on Qatar-based beIN Sports and has vowed to shut down pirate websites showing Premier League football in the country. Importantly, it also convinced the league that the state would not be involved in the day-to-day management of Newcastle. There is considerable unease among clubs as to whether this will turn out to be the case.
The Newcastle takeover also sparked backlash in the political arena. Labor, while claiming the deal “will trouble many fans”, did not ask for it to be suspended, and instead calls for a new regulatory system as soon as possible, most likely based on the ongoing review. the governance of football led by the Conservative MP and former Sports Minister Tracey Crouch.
Alison McGovern, the shadow minister of sports, said: “This is ultimately a failure in the way football is governed. Labor has been calling for a strict independent regulator for many years and the action we hope will come from the publication of the Crouch Review cannot come soon enough. “
Downing Street and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport have maintained a deliberately hands-off approach, with officials insisting that this is the Premier League and that since the UK trades with the Saudi Arabia, it would be abnormal to ban the takeover. of a football club.