Mike Ashley launches anti-competition legal action against Premier League – Newcastle United
A busy 24 hours of headlines for Mike Ashley and Newcastle United.
HMRC confirming that their four year criminal investigation into NUFC has now been brought to an end, though HMRC have told Sky Sports that in a case like this, it doesn’t automatically mean that civil action (fines etc) won’t potentially still happen.
Mike Ashley reacting to that news with the declaration: “It is now time for the dark forces that are preventing this football club from becoming the power house that the fans deserve, to step aside.”
Which then takes us on to another Newcastle United / Mike Ashley headline of recent hours…
The UK Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) announcing on Thursday (6 May 2021) that it has received a claim for damages and/or an injunction from Mike Ashley’s St James Holdings company under section 47A of the Competition Act 1998.
The full details / text of the claim can be read here, but whilst the claim / case was made public yesterday, Mike Ashley filed the action two weeks earlier on 22 April 2021.
The claim alleges that the Premier League “prevented, or hindered, the proposed Newcastle United takeover and knew that its actions would prevent and/or delay the proposed takeover.”
It also accuses the Premier League of acting in the interests of ‘certain clubs’ in not approving the Saudi financed takeover.
The court documents state that the Premier League: ‘Has a special responsibility to exercise its powers as a gatekeeper in a fair, objective and non-discriminatory manner and, in particular, not to exercise those powers for an ulterior commercial motive… (and) by excluding new owners (it) has the potential to restrict competition between clubs.’
The Premier League also accused of having ‘failed’ to apply the rules of the owners and directors test in a ‘non-discriminatory fashion.’
Mike Ashley is seeking financial damages and also an injunction requiring the Premier League to withdraw, or reconsider, its decision not to give the go ahead to the Newcastle United takeover by the Saudi PIF financed consortium.
Naturally, this latest move by Mike Ashley has brought all kinds of speculation and viewpoints from commentators and journalists, as they cross reference it to the arbitration hearing Mike Ashley has also instigated regarding the Premier League and which is reportedly due to be heard this summer.
On the one hand, you have people claiming this latest anti-competition move / action as further proof that Mike Ashley is set to win the arbitration case with the Newcastle United takeover set to go through and he’s simply piling on more pressure / pain for the Premier League.
Whilst on the other hand, there are people saying that this points to Mike Ashley accepting that he is going to lose the arbitration and that there will still be no NUFC approval, leading to Ashley simply lashing out with this new anti-competition action.
What we do know as fact, is that anti-competition cases usually take a serious amount of time, often measured in years, before there is any outcome. Whereas in comparison, arbitration is relatively quick and an outcome delivered within months.
One suggestion is that the anti-competition move by Mike Ashley, has been done, at least in part, to try and get some kind of disclosure of information, which could happen potentially quickly, whilst the case is ongoing. Information which could then maybe be used in the arbitration hearing to help Ashley’s case.
For Newcastle United fans hoping that the events and announcements of Thursday might bring some clarity about what is going to happen with our football club, you will be left disappointed. Anybody claiming they know anything for sure as to where this football club will be in 12 months time and especially who will own it…well put it this way, I wouldn’t be placing any bets based on their ‘exclusive’ information / knowledge.
Meanwhile, with four matches of the season remaining, Newcastle United are fourth bottom of the Premier League and play away at Leicester tonight, still needing points to confirm they will be a top tier club next season, with a Head Coach who claims one of the big problems (excuses!) is that his players are so tired, despite the fact no Premier League club has played fewer matches these past seven months.
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