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More Boris Johnson and Newcastle United takeover links BUT is it progress?

2 weeks ago
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The Boris Johnson ‘involvement’ with the Newcastle United takeover continues to make headlines.

The Mail making it a front page story on Wednesday (14 April 2021) that Boris Johnson had ‘intervened’ (last year) in the Saudi bid to buy Newcastle United, after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent private WhatsApp messages to Boris Johnson in June (2020) demanding that the Premier League “reconsider and correct its wrong conclusion” blocking the takeover.

Yesterday (Thursday 16 April) then seeing the Prime Minister’s official Downing Street spokesman denying that Boris Johnson ‘intervened’…that instead, Johnson had simply instructed his senior aide Lord (Eddie) Lister to look into the Newcastle United takeover bid by the Saudi state consortium.

Johnson’s spokesman stating yesterday: ‘The prime minister asked Lord Lister to check on the progress of the [Newcastle United takeover] talks as a potential major foreign investment in the UK. He didn’t ask him to intervene. The prime minister didn’t intervene. The government was not involved in any point in these takeover talks.”

The Mail though have then followed up late on Thursday night with more Boris John / Newcastle United takeover headlines / revelations.

The newspaper quoting a ‘well placed source’ who has revealed the details of an alleged conversation between Boris Johnson and Lord Lister on 7 September 2020:

Boris Johnson:

“Any news from Saudi?”

Lord Lister:

“A call is being set up.

“The Newcastle deal [with the Saudi consortium] will hopefully be signed this week.”

Boris Johnson:

“Brilliant.”

The Mail intimating that this conversation supported the idea that Boris Johnson was very closely involved in personally wanting the Newcastle United takeover to happen, for whatever reason(s).

The Mail in their latest piece revealing yet more intrigue as to what happened and what was said regarding Boris Johnson and the moves to try and buy NUFC:

‘The Daily Mail can today reveal that the Prime Minister claimed privately that a Tory donor with close links to the Saudis contacted him over the Newcastle row and appeared to hint at getting a peerage in return for resolving Anglo-Saudi disputes.

This newspaper can also reveal new evidence of the extent of Bin Salman’s fury in his June message to the Prime Minister, with a warning that the UK economy would pay a price.

The Crown Prince said: ‘The kingdom of Saudi Arabia has opened its doors for the UK’s investments in various sectors and initiated a mutually beneficial investment program with large amounts of funding. The EPL’s wrong conclusion will unfortunately have a negative impact on both our countries economic and commercial relations.’

After Mr Johnson told Lord Lister of Bin Salman’s anger, the peer replied: ‘Tell MBS (Mohammad Bin Salman) that I am investigating on your behalf.’

In his September message to Lord Lister, Mr Johnson said investment banker Ken Costa contacted him over the Newcastle deal and was ‘lobbying’ for a peerage in return for helping him with Anglo-Saudi relations.

Mr Costa, who has given tens of thousands of pounds to the Conservatives and was Theresa May’s envoy to Saudi Arabia, confirmed last night that he backed the Newcastle deal. But he dismissed the suggestion that he had ‘lobbied’ for a peerage as ‘nonsense’.

He told the Mail: ‘There was a long discussion to see what was going on with the Newcastle deal. It was an opportunity for serious investment in the North-East.’

As for Newcastle United fans looking on at this latest series of major newspaper headlines concerning the attempted takeover, what does it all mean?

Well, in my opinion, yet again it appears that Newcastle supporters are the ones being used, at least in part, yet again as a part of a political football that gets booted around.

Obviously these are great scoops from The Mail, with regard to what Boris Johnson has done in terms of involvement with the Newcastle United takeover issues and in particular the Saudi end of things, but does any of this suggest any change / progress in terms of the takeover actually happening?

It looks to me that clearly this week’s Boris Johnson headlines are more to do with trying to link them, even in the most loosest of ways, with the David Cameron lobbying scandal.

Newcastle fans just collateral damage in terms of getting their hopes raised about takeover progress, as they and their club are used by the media as an integral part of The Mail stories of Boris Johnson involvement. Newcastle supporters then seeing the whole media circus kicking into gear yet again with Amnesty International releasing a statement and so on…

However, none of this week’s headlines and stories connecting Boris Johnson, have pointed to any progress on the Newcastle United takeover actually having happened in 2021, the media revelations simply about what did or didn’t happen back in summer 2020.

As things currently stand, Newcastle fans still have no concrete hopes that anything has changed with regard to the Premier League rules / stance that prevented the takeover happening, concerning the Saudi state and Saudi PIF being able to be seen as separate entities for the purposes of the owners and directors test. Nor of course whether any changes in the political issues concerning Saudi Arabia and Qatar, might now be able to help smooth the way to a takeover now happening.

It is also widely reported that the Mike Ashley / Newcastle United instigated arbitration hearing with the Premier League is still yet to even begin, so any hopes of rapid action looks unlikely.

In any situation in politics, whether it be Government or football politics, the case usually is that if all parties do want a deal or change to go through, then they will find a way to make it happen. The perception of course last year for Newcastle fans was that the Premier League and powerful people / clubs did not want the Saudi takeover to go ahead. Whether that perception / belief was right or wrong last year, maybe the biggest hope for Newcastle fans is that for whatever reason(s) the Premier League might have changed their stance now and would be open to finding a way for the Newcastle United takeover to finally take place.

This is of course all just speculation…but then again so is pretty much everything else that is written and said about the takeover issues by anybody else.

The bottom line is that the Premier League is all about money and after the hit that English football has taken, along with football in every other country, then adding a very rich and powerful new owner may well now be seen as a major positive. Whether any behind the scenes political moves may still be going on now to try and help make it happen, well, you wouldn’t be surprised.

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