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Legal letter before action issued to Premier League regarding Newcastle United takeover

4 weeks ago
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The Newcastle United takeover dominated the lockdown period football headlines earlier this year.

At one time it looking only a matter of time, only for the Premier League to delay, and delay, and delay, with a statement eventually released from the buying consortium, saying they were pulling out, citing the seemingly never ending delays on a decision, as a major factor.

Various media have kept the story alive, claiming they are aware of moves towards a hopefully successful Newcastle United takeover still going on behind the scenes.

Whilst on 14 September 2020, Blackstone Chambers announced:

‘Newcastle United FC and the Premier League

Shaheed Fatima QC and Nick De Marco QC are acting for Newcastle United FC and Mike Ashley (instructed by Dentons) in a dispute with the Premier League about its rejection of a takeover bid made by PCP Capital Partners, the Reuben Brothers and the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia (PIF) based on its Owners and Directors test.’

Newcastle fans have also been looking at potential ways of legally putting pressure on the Premier League on the issue, or even instigating their own legal action.

Now NUFC supporters acting under the NCSL (Newcastle Consortium Supporters Limited) banner have issued a legal letter before action to the Premier League regarding the (so far…) failed Newcastle United takeover.

The Shields Gazette report that fans Gordon Stein and Keith Patterson have issued the letter which is ‘demanding Newcastle United takeover anti-competition disclosure.’

Good luck to them and whilst it is inevitable many Newcastle fans will be sceptical about what any NUFC supporter initiative can achieve, at the very least it will be interesting to see what the Premier League respond with, if anything.

The NCSL (Newcastle Consortium Supporters Limited) statement as reported by the Shields Gazette:

‘Without fans the game is nothing! When you watch games in empty stadia they lack everything that makes our English Premier League (EPL) the richest and most admired competition in world football. Then after paying upwards of £100 a month for TV sport subscriptions the EPL come back and demand another £14.95 per game to housebound fans. It seems they think they can do as they please to football fans.

Often during the worst times we get to see the true colours of everyone. So, when lower league clubs needed support during this pandemic some of our top clubs showed their colours and offered help in their terrible ‘Big Picture’ fantasy scheme. They offered help but at a great cost. That cost was to try to get “the big six” clubs in England to become even bigger and protect their wealth over and above every other football club in England.

The biggest eye opener for Newcastle’s fans is that they tried to introduce a special ruling of who could buy any other English football club. They wanted to control with whom they competed, and, who was allowed into their market place. We think that is illegal. Today we, a group of Newcastle United fans, are making the most determined move possible to overturn the refusal to quickly approve the PIF Consortium’s takeover of our club.

We are truly united! A willing seller in Mike Ashley, a willing buyer in the PIF Consortium and a willing fan base looking to support this move. We all want the same thing. Our fans want this deal for our club, and we know we have a very short window to make that happen, since the PIF Consortium could finally lose interest if we do not act quickly. Everything we have heard suggests that the takeover could still take place but that time is of the essence.

Today, we issued a Letter Before Action to the EPL concerning the takeover, a copy of which we are making public. We consider that the approval was tainted by collusive actions between a series of undertakings who should have been acting independently, contrary to competition law. To this end, we have worked with one of the UK’s very top QC’s in Sport and Competition Law in Robert O’Donoghue QC and we believe that only a fans group will see this resolved within an acceptable short period of time.

Our plan is to seek maximum expedition of our case before a specialist competition law court, the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT). The CAT is a specialist judicial body with cross-disciplinary expertise in law, which hears and decides cases involving competition regulatory issues. We have asked the EPL and its members to cooperate in expediting this case due to the urgency involved.

The CAT is willing to deal with urgent cases very quickly, with results in a handful of months. We also very much hope that the UK courts will appreciate the urgency of hearing a case very much in the public’s interest where ordinary members of the UK public are taking on the wealth and might of the EPL and its members and others. This impacts football fans across our country and the globe, not just Newcastle fans.

We therefore await the EPL’s response as to how they will either face up to this action if they have nothing to hide, or whether they will seek to delay and obfuscate.

The seller, the buyer and our fans all want to know exactly what is going on within the EPL and what impact collective lobbying and collusion has contributed to these unacceptable delays in the EPL’s refusal to quickly approve the takeover of our club. We want to understand the real reasons why the

EPL changed their approach to this takeover after originally stating there were no red flags, and then engaged in extraordinary delaying tactics. The best way to test this, of course, is through effective disclosure of contemporaneous documents and evidence, since only that will reveal exactly what was going on at the time, exactly where those red flags appeared from, and who raised them.’

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