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Premier League refused extension to answer Newcastle United takeover anti-competition letter – Report

4 weeks ago
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Eight days ago, NUFC 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.

The seven days were due to be up yesterday and on Tuesday (3 November) afternoon, they (Newcastle Consortium Supporters Limited) issued an update via their Twitter account:

“At 12.59 our lawyers received an EPL letter asking for a further 14 days to respond to our claim due to its detailed nature and to refrain from legal action.

“Whilst we consider their request we’re unable to reply to public requests.

“Thank you for your support!”

The Newcastle fans (NCSL) behind the letter haven’t directly gone public so far with how they have responded to the Premier League request. However, an ‘exclusive’ on Wednesday morning has revealed what the response has been.

The Shields Gazette say that their information is that ‘NCSL’s legal representatives last night told the league they do not agree with the request for an extension.’

The newspaper report adding that: ‘It’s understood that request has been knocked back, with the belief the Premier League have had more than enough time to address the issue.’

What happens next is anybody’s guess.

However, the very fact that the Premier League did respond to the original letter and asked for an extension to reply to it, at the very least suggests that the Premier League is taking this seriously.

As to whether these actions by fans would / could potentially help prepare the ground for an actual Newcastle United takeover to happen, that is a massive leap of faith…but, good on the NUFC supporters involved with NCSL for doing their best to make positive change possible.

Meanwhile, back 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.’

However, nothing further has been heard on that front as we are now over seven weeks on from that Blackstone Chambers announcement.

If anything did end up in court, either through Mike Ashley’s or the fans actions, it is difficult to see it happening quickly. The virus situation meaning there is a massive backlog / waiting list in pretty much every area of law, for cases / disputes to be heard.

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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