To see the back of Mike Ashley’s lacklustre contribution to recent Newcastle United history is almost too much to hope for. If it happens then I’d welcome it.
You tend to get a range of views on the idea of a takeover. Some fans seem to have amnesia when it comes to Mr Ashley. This ‘better the devil you know’ theory is simply nonsense. Two relegations and a decade of ridiculous decisions. Time to go.
I look at other clubs where foreign ownership has gone wrong…but I see many others where it has gone right.
It has allowed them to spend more and become established top flight football clubs that don’t stand still for far too long. Investment in the Premier League is vital, as long as the money is spent wisely, which is where Mr Benitez would come into play.
So where are we in terms of progress on a takeover? Well, let’s face it, nobody really knows. We’re told two or three ‘groups’ are in non-disclosure and that the financier Amanda Staveley is ‘interested’. She attended a game, heads up a middle Eastern investment fund worth £28 billion, but may also fancy buying Liverpool.
That’s it. We know very little else. Ashley will reportedly sell for £380m but that would make us the biggest sale of a football club after Manchester United. His asking price is a major issue, unless the debt element can be negotiated into incremental payments.
The merchandising arrangements through Sports Direct would be up for discussion too, not to mention the HMRC investigation into some of the club’s previous transfer dealings.
On the flip side, the purchaser will be getting one of the best supported clubs in Europe, a playing squad in rude health, a manager with a CV to boast about and a set of fans the most united they’ve been since the Robson era.
There’s been the odd moment when I’ve allowed myself to consider what life might be like after Ashley. I’ve even dared to think what it might be like if the club suddenly encountered someone with really serious wealth and willingness to speculate. The sky really would be the limit. This is where some fans refuse to accept it – that sort of thing just doesn’t happen at Newcastle Utd, right?
But there are a number of factors which support the idea that a takeover is more than a pipe dream, or a ruse by Ashley’s PR people to put the brakes on any spending.
The first key factor is that the club really is up for sale – Ashley has said so, and has Justin Barnes on board to oversee the process. Ten years down the line there seems to be a sense that he will go if the numbers are right. He said as much in that Sky interview.
Then we have the fact the club is financially very stable. Putting the HMRC thing to one side, the balance sheet is tidy, there is no major bank debt and the ground is sold out every week. A big selling point.
New TV deals are on the horizon too. These deals will be even more lucrative, so now is the time to get involved at a club that has such a strong brand.
Of all the other clubs in the Premier League, who else is up for sale? Only NUFC are so openly on the market. Staveley may very well want to buy Liverpool, but their owners apparently want a billion pounds, which seems crazy.
Apart from the red half of Merseyside I can’t see any other club in the Prem that is a better purchase option, while none of the other so-called big boys have the for sale signs up.
Can an investor get their hands on Arsenal? No. Man City? No. Spurs? No. Man Utd? No. Chelsea? No? Liverpool? Maybe, but their owners, FSG, are not clear about whether or not they want to sell up.
All roads lead to Rome, as they say. The next instalment of the saga is more hotly anticipated than the new Star Wars film.
Whichever way it turns out, you get the sense with Mr Ashley that any major development will appear like a bolt from the blue.
Watch this space.
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