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Opinion

5 potential Newcastle United arbitration / takeover outcomes in next 12 to 18 months

2 months ago
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Can anyone actually be bothered with this at Newcastle United any more?

No signings, dodgy pre-season results, Mike Ashley, Steve Bruce, protests, fighting, ITK accounts spouting false knowledge about arbitration definitely failing or confidently passing.

It’s all incredibly wearing, and that’s without even considering COVID measures, vaccine passports and the whole other argument all that brings.

I feel a bit like there’s an impasse here. I mean, there bloody is an impasse here, but I’m not sure we’re taking it well at all. Newcastle United are stuck in the mud, like that horse in the Neverending Story (apologies to anyone of a similar age for awakening that bit of childhood trauma), seemingly sinking into the mire despite the distress of those hopelessly straining at the reins to yank it out.

Basically, NUFC are in suspended animation until the arbitration hearing that has been shoved back to next year is over.

In the very best case scenario this whole season must be played out with Mike Ashley as owner and Steve Bruce as manager (up to a point at least). What happens next is wide open, so I thought I’d break it down a little bit into the potential outcomes of the following year to 18 months. I have a view on how it might go but I’ll try to keep it impartial.

Scenario 1 – Mike Ashley / NUFC wins the arbitration hearing

Before anyone scoffs at this, I need a caveat.

Despite many a tweet to the contrary, nobody knows exactly what case the two sets of lawyers are setting out going into this case and anyone pretending to have insight into the end result is simply guessing, be it informed or speculative.

There remains a possibility of this being a big win for NUFC, the question is, does that possibility exist in the real world or just in the head of Mike Ashley.

In terms of next steps, this one is easy: a win should see the club sold within a matter of days, although I believe it’s thoroughly accepted that this will not be until the back end of this season. Undoubtedly, a transformative summer would precede a bright future and happy days are here again. Unless…

Scenario 2 – NUFC wins arbitration but get relegated

I hate this possibility.

The fact that it may actually untangle in our favour but then the adherence to Bruceball costs us our place in the very division we’ve spent the last year squabbling with.

This would surely mean the agreed price becomes redundant, and my money would be on the fat man gambling on another quick bounce-back from the Championship and the sale going through the next summer, as opposed to the more rational option of dropping his price to reflect the asset depreciation he has caused. I have doubts about whether either of the necessary steps would happen. Welcome to another year of uncertainty.

Scenario 3A – NUFC loses arbitration, PIF goes away and other options emerge

This could actually be a fine outcome.

It seems obvious that, as far as Ashley is concerned, the PCP bid is the only show in town.

If you stuck down £300 million for NUFC now, your call wouldn’t be returned. Arbitration defeat would surely erode any remaining resolve the PIF have for this transaction and it would be time to move on. This would give the potential for alternatives, be this through alternative funding with the Staveley/Reubens consortium, or anyone completely removed who may have been eyeing this process with interest.

The price agreed with PCP is surely not likely to be matched, so the hope rests on Ashley being so worn down by it all, with coronavirus rules and an increasingly detached fan base, that he is open to accepting a more realistic offer (still with huge gains for himself) to be done with it all. This would remove the social conscience element of being involved with Saudi Arabian royalty, but would almost certainly mean less of a stratospheric rise.

Scenario 3B – lose arbitration and there are no alternatives

This is the doomsday scenario.

If there is no one else out there or, as is probably likely, Ashley will not compromise on a realistic price, the club will be cut adrift worse than ever before.

This is the one scenario where remaining in the Premier League would be a bad thing, as we scrape by from year to year with free signings and patsy managers, as Mike refuses to budge. I would hope there would be a degree of fan mobilisation, as anyone still hanging on in the hope of some kind of takeover good news from the previous scenarios would surely have had enough by this stage. The problem has always been solidarity among fans, which may only be helped should we move onto the next outcome:

Scenario 4 – NUFC loses arbitration, gets relegated

In all honesty, probably preferential to 3B.

Whether this is imminent or takes three years, I am sure that Ashley would misjudge the situation and assume Bruce / whoever could do the same Phoenix from the flames job so competently managed by Hughton and Benitez before them. I would not have any such faith in the likely management or squad.

However, a fall from grace may be the only route to forcing Ashley out, with the growing pledge NUFC trust are managing possibly coming into play, even if it’s just a beacon to draw in big time investors. It may take a few years, even a drop into League One, but I bet we’d all take that to see Ashley accept the futility of the situation, cut his losses and finally call time on Sports Direct FC.

So, there you have it.

Broadly, the outcome will fit one of these categories. Sadly, I feel that we as a fan base cannot influence it until this year has passed. Any pressure will be ignored as the administrations tunnel vision focuses on the day in court. A mostly empty ground could be a positive to increase Ashley’s resolve to leave, or it could have a negative impact on the resolve of any potential alternative suitor.

To that end, I would respect anyone’s decision to do what they want this year, and as ever urge all to do the same.

If there is a solid protest with a viable end product (Bruce out, money on transfers), good on you.

If you want to stay away because we’re being taken for mugs, fair play to you.

If you want to keep going because you have kids who enjoy it, like the craic or, bizarrely, enjoy it, fill your boots.

The only argument any of you will get from me is to the concept that there’s a hard and fast answer, a right or wrong thing to do. My only strong opinion is to hope that we avoid the drop again this year to allow one of the better scenarios above to remain feasible, and even then I realise in time this may not turn out to be the best thing.

This is gonna be a tough ride ahead I reckon. Just hang on everyone.

Follow Jamie on Twitter @Mr_Dolf

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