We were not promised the Spanish Inquisition – NUST quiz Richard Masters and the Premier League
On Wednesday, Richard Masters and other Premier League officials were part of a socially distanced meeting with a number of football supporter representatives.
People from the FSA (Football Supporters Association) were in on the call, as were six representatives from supporters trusts / organisations.
The six clubs represented were Chelsea, Fulham, Spurs, Leicester, Liverpool and Newcastle United.
The meeting was primarily about the coming season and dialogue about the return of fans to stadiums at some point(s).
A member of the NUST board was there on behalf of over 14,000 members and beforehand, the Trust successfully got added to the agenda, the Newcastle United takeover saga.
Ahead of Wednesday’s meeting, there was much debate amongst Newcastle fans as to what might be asked and answered about the takeover.
Surely though, any vaguely sensible Newcastle fan understood that whilst this was a very worthwhile exercise, we weren’t going to be getting any revelations.
Now that the NUST have reported back on the meeting with the Premier League (see below), inevitably there are some Newcastle fans who are far from happy with the end result, making this clear via social media / online.
Well, we were were not promised the Spanish Inquisition.
Much as some of us might enjoy the thought of Richard Masters and others from the Premier League ‘enjoying’ various forms of inventive torture to get other answers, NUST can only work with the answers that they were given.
It was always going to be the case that we would see a Premier League response to NUST with answers very similar to the Richard Masters letter to Chi Onwurah last Friday.
Sure enough, as you can see below, it is the Premier League refuting any claims of wrongdoing, especially in relation to what Amanda Staveley claimed after the consortium pulled their deal three weeks ago.
Nothing has really changed after the NUST update, it just reinforces the fact that the Premier League have knocked the ball back over the net and it is down to the Saudi PIF financed bidders to react accordingly.
Ideally they will now push ahead with a renewed bid having taken in what the Premier League have said this past week and / or they progress things on the basis that the PL have acted beyond their remit and look to force through a takeover that way.
With the Premier League grasping the nettle and putting out that letter on Friday and allowing the NUFC takeover on the agenda yesterday, it does really leave the Saudi PIF consortium duty bound to respond in some way, preferably actions rather than words.
NUST update to members – Thursday 20 August 2020:
Premier League Meeting
Yesterday we spoke with Richard Masters at a Premier League dialogue meeting regarding the Newcastle United takeover.
Thomas Concannon from the Supporters Trust represented our 14,000 members in seeking answers from the Premier League about the process and where the takeover currently stands.
Ahead of the meeting the Trust agreed to agreed to allow the Premier League to put out its own minutes from the meeting with the Premier League. The Trust respected this request of the Premier League. Please note that minutes on the ‘return to football’ for supporters from October will be published next week and we will make comment on that situation after those minutes are released. As we have been very keen to communicate with members the Premier League agreed to produce minutes on the takeover of Newcastle United quickly and separately to the rest of the meeting.
It was made clear to Richard Masters and his colleagues that 96.7% of our members were in favour of this takeover and that from a Supporters Trust perspective, the lack of clarity on the situation had left Newcastle United fans angry and upset at their treatment in this process.
The conversation with Richard Masters lasted over half an hour and we are grateful to the Football Supporters Association for facilitating this conversation as we searched to get answers for our members.
Our questions submitted to Richard Masters were:
1.Purpose of test and outside influence
Could the Premier League clarify the purpose of the O and D test? At the beginning of this process there was an assumption among Newcastle United supporters that the Test was a measure to safeguard the future of the club involved from any owners who could harm the long term future of the football club in question. Does the League understand why many Newcastle United fans feel that the interests of everyone but Newcastle United seem to have taken precedent in this instance – namely that TV piracy, the interests of broadcast suppliers to the League and even the interests of rival Premier League clubs seem to have been a priority over the well-being of Newcastle United?
2.Timescale of the Test.
Newcastle United supporters have read that it was reported that The Premier League was aware from the start that this bid was to be 80% funded by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia. It is reported that the Premier League made contact with Newcastle United near the start of this process and there were “no red flags” with the bid in early April, shortly after the paperwork was submitted. Can you confirm or deny that this assurance was made and if indeed it was, what changed after this point?
3. The scope of the Test
Supporters are baffled that a process that has a willing seller, a willing buyer and a willing fan base has lasted as long as it has without a conclusion one way or another? Many fans understandably assume that if they are not able to take control of the club, you should fail these prospective owners and directors to allow closure on the matter? That so long could be spent on the test without a clear decision being made one way or the other appears to Supporters to give credence to the idea that the prospective owners can’t fail the test or that the League is seeking to protect itself from an appeals process or legal action? Any clarity on this would be helpful.
(a) Can the League understand why supporters are mostly baffled by a process which has reportedly broken down because the League require a sovereign state of 45 million people to sit an owners and directors test? This may be a gross simplification of this process but clarity here would allow many fans to better understand what has happened and the Premier League’s perspective on matters.
4. Moving forward
Can the Premier League let supporters know if there is a road map for completion on this takeover deal? Some supporters have still not been refunded properly by Newcastle United football club from last season and the future of the club is uncertain. The club still has many staff furloughed and there has been no constructive dialogue with supporters since Lockdown (and well before that). Is there a way this takeover can be completed from the Premier League’s perspective?
Key comments from the meeting and the answers given to our questions
The Trust’s point on the Premier League/FSA agenda was moved to the start of the meeting, which was welcomed
The Trust is pleased that Richard Masters said that protecting Newcastle United was a priority of the Owners and Directors Test. Although it seems like an obvious point the Trust was keen to make sure that Newcastle United and it’s supporters were recognised in this process as being essential. With so much reported about outside interests (listed in Question 1 by the Trust) we wanted to hear that protecting Newcastle United was the most important purpose of this exercise. We feel that we were given clarity on that matter and the PL agreed that any club going through the Test is the priority of the Test.
The PL sympathised with fans over the public nature of this bid but stressed that it is a confidential process and that confidentiality was not just important to the Premier League but to the seller (Newcastle United) as well. The Premier League is in regular contact with Newcastle United and has been throughout this process. Although the PL will look into its Owners and Directors Test (which it planned to anyway) there is also another party which could communicate with it’s supporters with its views on this process who so far fans have heard very little from – Newcastle United. The PL feel it is not their role to give updates on a confidential process and that it absolutely has not provided updates on the Test to anyone during the process.
The PL outright rejected that any outside influence (put to them in the Trust’s question 1) had either attempted to or influenced the PL Board during the Owner and Director Test.
The PL confirmed that the Premier League Board (in charge of the Owners and Directors test) did not communicate or promise any timescale to any party in this process and there was no truth in the comment put to them in Question 2 by the Trust. The Premier League is insistent that the test was conducted in a timely manner and consistent with previous tests undertaken in terms of timescale. It was not accurate that a test would likely be completed within 4 weeks as reported in the media.
Regarding Question 3 that the Trust put to the PL, the Premier League passionately defended it’s Owner and Director Test and confirmed that it had gone beyond the scope of the Test to try and offer the buyers a resolution process on the disagreement over who would control the football club. The buyer in this instance declined to take up that option, instead withdrawing from the process. The Premier League could not make a decision on the Test ultimately because the PIF withdrew from the process. Arbitration would not have been on any other aspect of the Test but this key impasse between the PL and the PIF and the issue of which entity would own the club.
The Premier League confirmed that as the buyers had publicly withdrawn their bid to buy the club that it was not for the Premier League to speculate on the next steps for parties that were not the Premier League. However the door remained open for any takeover bid, this one or otherwise, who wished to complete the test. In terms of communication about the future of the football club then the PL stressed that was for the club to communicate to it’s supporters.
The Trust Board has the following analysis on the answers given by Richard Masters
We believe that the Premier League have provided some answers to members today. There was speculation that there would be ‘no comment’ from Richard Masters and that has not been the case. He spoke at length and we have summarised these answers above. We are aware that we cannot satisfy every fan on this matter but any supporters looking to the Trust to fix a process between a governing body, the billionaire owner of our club and the consortium of buyers is not being realistic . Our campaign to get answers from the Premier League has been successful in getting information and clarity (from the PL’s perspective) that was otherwise missing.
As a member you can be aware that The Premier League and Richard Masters know your thoughts on the process and they know we have a willing buyer and seller, but also a willing fan base and how frustrated members feel about the club not being sold. The willing fan base should count for more than it does, in the Trusts opinion however we also recognise that the Premier League has obligations
The Premier League was clear to the Trust about no outside interference in the takeover process. Considering public accusations on this matter it was essential to get clarity that only the Premier League board has influence on the takeover process and it was not true that any club or entity had tried to influence the PL Board in anyway. Many fans are rightly concerned that others who have no right to influence this takeover have attempted to do so. The PL was absolutely clear this did not happen.
We agree with the PL that we need to hear about next steps, and urgently, from Newcastle United. A short statement from Mike Ashley via Lee Charnley that he was and is committed to the sale of the club to this consortium was welcome, but is not enough. Supporters deserve to know the plans of Mike Ashley and if he still believes this sale can go through. The Premier League has been clear that the bid was withdrawn by the PIF. Fans need to know what happens next.
In the interest of transparency from the Trust to it’s members the Trust will be hosting a live Q & A for members tomorrow night on Youtube and members will be able to put across their questions to board members (including Thomas who attended the meeting).
The live stream will be available to watch after the event as well, but you can tune in live and potentially have a questioned answered at 20.00 on Friday 21st of August. The link to the stream can be found here.
From a Trust perspective the Trust board has worked hard for its members and their support of this takeover. You the Trust members have done your heir bit with nearly 8,000 of you emailing local MP’s and many of you based outside of the UK doing what you can. Thousands have mobilised to do what they can for this takeover.
In our opinion it is over to both the proposed buyers (who our members have heavily supported) and Newcastle United to clarify what happens next in this process and what happens for Newcastle United from here.
Whatever happens we are proud of our members and proud of the supporters of Newcastle United. You have achieved what no others could and shed light on this process and received answers from the Premier League. Often we are asked by members ‘what can we do next’? There is a new petition from Chi Onwurah MP to request the House of Commons to take action to review the way in which the Premier League assessed the recent bid, and provide accountability to fans and local communities of clubs subject to takeover bids with particular reference to Newcastle United, and to commit to a timescale for a fan-led review of Football, as promised in the Government Manifesto. The Trust would recommend any fan wanting further clarification sign the petition found here. Each fan can act in the best way they see fit to try and affect whatever outcome you would like to see.
From a Trust perspective It’s now over to others to decide what happens from here. We all want the same thing. At the Trust we hope the people that matter can do whatever needs done to allow Newcastle United to progress to where it needs to be.
Newcastle United Supporters Trust
(To join 14,000+ other fans as members of the Newcastle United Supporters Trust go HERE)
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