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Mike Ashley releases new official statement on Newcastle United Takeover arbitration – 1 July 2021

2 weeks ago
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Mike Ashley has released a new statement regarding Newcastle United Takeover arbitration.

On the evening of Thursday 1 July 2021, the NUFC owner releasing the statement via the club.

This new Newcastle United Takeover arbitration statement follows speculation regarding the issue in the media earlier today.

It doesn’t look like anything of substance and more like either Mike Ashley becoming desperate, or just wanting to try and stir things up again.

The Newcastle United Takeover arbitration hearing is set to take place this month and when Mike Ashley made the original announcement (see below) of it taking place via another statement released through the club in early March, he revealed then that he had failed in an attempt to have the hearing held in public.

Now he is going down that same street and demanding it is heard in public in the new statement.

Quite laughable really when you hear Mike Ashley complaining about keeping things secret and not allowing transparency. Ashley and his minions refusing to communicate pretty much anything to Newcastle fans, this summer arguably the worst ever.

Plus, Mike Ashley has also in recent days put back even further the release of the Newcastle United accounts, these accounts for 2019/20, TWO seasons ago!

Basically, the NUFC owner hasn’t allowed any financials to be released in the entire time since Steve Bruce has been at the club.

Mike Ashley Official Statement released via NUFC regarding Newcastle United Takeover arbitration – 1 July 2021:

‘The Club continues to receive requests for updates on its current arbitration claim against the Premier League (‘EPL’) considering the lawfulness of the EPL’s decisions regarding the proposed takeover of the Club involving the PIF.

Unfortunately, the Club is unable to make any comment about the arbitration. The EPL Rules provide the entire arbitration process is confidential.

However, both parties can agree for it to be in public. The Club believes it should be.

The issues at stake, including the lawfulness of the EPL’s decision making process and the widely publicised alleged influence of the EPL’s commercial partners on the EPL’s decisions, are of far wider interest to other football clubs, fans and the public in general.

The recent attempted breakaway by some EPL clubs – and the reaction of the government and public to it – has again highlighted the need for transparency and fairness in football governance. Gone are the days when important decisions that affect clubs and their fans should be made secretly, behind closed doors and away from the public eye.

The Club has nothing to hide with respect to the arbitration and invites the EPL to agree that it should no longer be held behind closed doors. If the EPL has acted lawfully and properly, it should have no reason to be afraid of the public spotlight.

To date the EPL has strongly resisted any public scrutiny of its decision-making process. It tried, and failed, to prevent the High Court’s judgment about elements of the arbitration being published last February. It is currently attempting to prevent the competition courts considering a claim by the Club’s sellers from taking place in public, arguing that too should be held in confidential arbitration.

So the Club has invited the EPL to agree – as the claim raises such important issues of sports governance, transparency and openness – that it should be held in public. The Club is prepared for every stage of the process to be in public: the public should be able to see the parties’ evidence and arguments as well as the full decision of the Tribunal when it is made.

The government quite rightly threatened to intervene in reaction to the proposed breakaway from the EPL earlier this year, and the reaction of football fans and the wider public was instrumental in stopping the emergence of the European Super League (ESL).

If the EPL continues to insist that the Club’s claim must be determined behind closed doors, the Club asks that MPs, the government, the media and the general public call on the EPL to finally accept public scrutiny of its decision-making process.’

Mike Ashley’s original Newcastle United Takeover arbitration Statement – 5 March 2021:

‘NUFC v EPL public statement to be considered following publication of the two judgments:

Today the High Court handed down judgment in NUFC’s application to have the Chairman of the Arbitration Panel under the Premier League’s (‘EPL’) Rules removed from hearing its claim concerning the proposed takeover of the Club. The Club asked for the Chairman to be removed on the ground of apparent bias.

The Club made the application because two weeks after the Chairman had been appointed the lawyers representing the Premier League, Bird & Bird, disclosed information that the Club had previously been unaware of. In particular, Bird & Bird disclosed that the Chairman had provided confidential advice to the EPL in 2017.

Although the advice was not provided to the Club, the Club was informed that the Chairman had advised the EPL on amendments to its ‘Owners and Directors Test’ (‘OADT’) in Section F of its Rules. Shortly after the Chairman provided that advice in 2017 the Rules were changed to prevent a foreign owner involved in alleged broadcasting piracy from passing the test.

This information concerned the Club given the following context: in a much publicised letter to EPL clubs in April 2020, BeIN Sports called for the EPL to “strictly apply” the OADT to prevent the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, PIF, from being involved in the takeover of the Club because BeIN alleged that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (‘the KSA’) was involved in broadcasting piracy. Later that year, the EPL decided that the KSA controlled the PIF and was therefore a ‘Director’ under its Rules. The Club disputes this analysis and brought an arbitration to reverse the decision. As today’s Judgment records, the Club’s case is that the arbitration is wider than simply the definition of ‘Director’ and part of the Club’s challenge is to the lawfulness of the EPL’s approach when considering the takeover.

The Chairman had also failed to disclose, when he was appointed, that he had previously been appointed by Bird & Bird and, in the last 3 years, had been an arbitrator in 12 cases involving Bird & Bird. When challenged by the Club, prior to the High Court claim, the Chairman did not agree to step down. The Club’s concerns were heightened when he then engaged in unilateral communications with Bird & Bird about the Club’s challenge, which is expressly against the EPL arbitration rules. In his private emails with the EPL’s lawyers he asked if they wanted him to carry on as Chairman, and he later explained that if they had asked him to step down he would have done so. The private email exchange was only disclosed after Bird & Bird suggested it should be.

Although the Court was critical of these communications, describing them as an “error of judgment” the Court refused the Club’s application to remove the Chairman on grounds of apparent bias.

The Club is disappointed with the Court’s judgment on this issue. As noted at the end of the Judgment, the Club submitted that the Judge did not address all of the Club’s arguments. The Club is committed to the speedy and fair determination of its claim so that the proposed takeover can go ahead as soon as possible. However, it felt it had to make this application given the need for the dispute to be determined by way of a fair process. The Club is considering whether or not to pursue an appeal.

The Club argued for the hearing to be in public but lost on that argument. The Club also wanted the Judgment to be published, even though it was dissatisfied with the outcome. Meanwhile, the EPL attempted to prevent it from being published at all. The EPL said that if it was published it should be heavily redacted and anonymised so that readers would not be able to identify the dispute. Unfortunately, this is consistent with the EPL’s lack of transparency over the takeover. The Club won on this point. The Judge rejected the EPL’s arguments and said there was a “public interest” in publication of the Judgment. The Club welcomes the fact that at least its supporters, and the wider public interested in the takeover and the dispute, will now be able to have some information about the process.

The Club shall continue to actively pursue its claim in the arbitration and calls on the EPL to resolve the matter in a speedy and transparent way that does not prevent the substantial investment into English football, and the North East region, that the proposed takeover would bring.’

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