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Opinion

Newcastle United takeover – There are some questions here that really need answering

4 months ago
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I’ve been struggling to explain to friends and colleagues who are not NUFC supporters how gut-wrenching the disappointment of the collapsed Newcastle United takeover has been.

Don’t you feel better, they say, not having to make excuses for a very dubious regime?

Well yes, but I think I would have been able to avert my eyes – Manchester City supporters seem to do it easily enough, as do the football writers and pundits who write about them, and – more remarkably – Pep Guardiola, who seems to be a rather principled person.

It doesn’t help the crushing disappointment one bit that I’m spared that.

The best explanation I can come up with is an analogy.

There is a sweet shop where only the six big kids in the village are allowed to go. That doesn’t include you, and you have kind of come to terms with that, even though you used to go there some years ago. And then somebody comes along and tells you that you are allowed back, leads you there and opens the door, so you can almost taste the sweets that you are going to enjoy. Then slams the door in your face and says ‘ha ha no, only fooling, this is just for the big kids’.

Who slammed the door in our faces?

Well, pretty clearly it was the Premier League.

Both Ashley and the consortium have said that they remain committed to the deal. What’s more, we have Mrs Staveley’s explanation in an interview she gave to George Caulkin.

Just in case you haven’t seen it, she said that the sticking point was when the Premier League demanded that the state of Saudi Arabia itself become a director of the football club. It wasn’t enough that the Public Investment Fund become a director, which they had already agreed to, although it was more than was ever asked of the Abu Dhabi United Group, who own 77% of Manchester City. It had to be the state itself.

Just how remarkable a demand was that?

Imagine that another country’s jurisdiction demanded that the UK itself became a director in an overseas enterprise. Imagine then that the government, the prime minister and the Queen would be subjected to that jurisdiction’s judgement of their fitness as part of an owners and directors test. Would we have entertained the thought for a moment? It should be no surprise that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia did not, as surely the Premier League must have known.

There are some questions here that really need answering.

What authority does the Premier League have to issue demands like that to another state? On what grounds could it be considered comparable to the requirements placed on other owners, most obviously Manchester City’s? In what sense is it not simply raising the bar ever higher until they knew that it could never be jumped?

As things stand, there is no chance that the Premier League will even deign to answer, let alone be held accountable, because as we have been told many times, the process is theirs alone and is confidential.

If you feel as I do that an independent investigation is warranted, there is a petition HERE which already has over 35,000 signatures.

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