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Premier League confirm they are currently in ‘legal dispute’ with Newcastle United

2 weeks ago
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On 27 October 2020, supporters acting under the NCSL (Newcastle Consortium Supporters Limited) banner, issued a legal letter before action to the Premier League regarding the (so far…) failed Newcastle United takeover.

Fans Gordon Stein and Keith Patterson issued the letter on 27 October 2020 (see below) to the Premier League, ‘demanding Newcastle United takeover anti-competition disclosure’, giving them seven days to respond.

The overall intention of the fans group is to challenge the Premier League for breach of anti-competition law during the proposed takeover of NUFC this year.

This Tuesday (17 November 2020) morning, NCSL confirmed they had finally received a ‘substantive’ nine page response to that original letter three weeks, stating via Twitter:

“We’ve received the EPL’s “substantive” 9-page response.

“Its now with our competition team led by Robert O’Donoghue, QC.

“We’ll announce our next move in our determination to progress this matter.

“Stand together as fans for answers! UNITED we remain!”

That Twitter message was then followed by an article appearing on the Shields Gazette, after they had been briefed by NCSL:

‘The Gazette can exclusively reveal the Premier League, in a letter to Newcastle Consortium Supporters Ltd, have officially confirmed Newcastle United are in legal dispute with the governing body with regards the stalled Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, Reuben Brothers and PCP Capital Partners buyout of the football club.

While the legal action by Ashley and his prominent Blackstone Chambers QCs Nick De Marco and Shaheed Fatima has been widely speculated on, it has never been confirmed by the club itself, nor by the Premier League – until now.

The confirmation is understood to have angered many close to the deal.

In an official statement, NCSL confirmed to the Gazette:

“The Newcastle Consortium Supporters has received a reply from the EPL’s lawyers, Bird & Bird that has confirmed that the club is currently in a legal dispute with the EPL regarding the proposed acquisition, which may lead to a duplication of the issues raised by the fans consortium. The EPL have said it would therefore be premature for us to bring our claim now. However, the EPL have not said who is to determine these proceedings, nor when they will be determined. We, the fans, feel we have a right to know and to be kept informed.”

The NCSL then commenting on Twitter later today (Tuesday 17 November 2020) after that Shield Gazette article:

“The EPL released contents of their letter and “confidence” over a legal dispute with a fans group.

“We, as fans, are more than confident in the outcome of this action.

“Why gesture against our actions and stress your intent to slow this down!

“Let a court decide!”

As with anything else Newcastle United takeover related, we are hoping for the best but fearing the worst.

A lot of chatter on social media amongst Newcastle fans regarding this NCSL initiative but as far as I’m concerned, at the very least I can’t see how it does any harm. Whilst at best, who knows? At the very least it is causing the Premier League some hassle and good on the fans involved for putting time, effort and no doubt money into this. Some of the reporting of the fan initiative has been a bit embarrassing, trying to get cheap clicks / attention by making out that two plus two equals a takeover happening, whereas in reality, the attempt by fans to open up the Premier League on how they operate and their decision making process, is only the very start of potentially leading to anything of substance way down the line, in terms of a takeover ever actually happening, possibly…

The NCSL (Newcastle Consortium Supporters Limited) statement – 27 October 2020:

‘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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