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Mike Ashley sets biggest ever Newcastle United gamble in motion

3 weeks ago
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On 5 March 2021, Mike Ashley released a statement.

In that statement, the Newcastle United owner revealed that he had launched arbitration proceedings with the Premier League.

The NUFC owner also making clear in the statement that he was unhappy at the lack of transparency allowed by the Premier League, Ashley saying he was committed to fighting for this transparency, wanting the arbitration process made public…

Four months later we heard from Mike Ashley once again, another statement (see below) released on 1 July 2021.

Nothing really new in the July follow up statement, instead it was Mike Ashley asking ‘that MPs, the government, the media and the general public call on the EPL to finally accept public scrutiny of its decision-making process.’

Some people reading into it that Mike Ashley was potentially becoming desperate, wanting to try and stir things up to somehow try and get things going his way.

I must admit, it doesn’t fill me with confidence in believing Mike Ashley is brimming with confidence when it comes to success in this arbitration, success that will lead to a completed Newcastle United takeover.

Ignoring the laughable fact of Mike Ashley demanding transparent honesty from absolutely anybody…I do wonder and worry, as to where this is all heading.

A bit like your ordinary man in the street with serious financial problems relying on a lottery win to sort everything out, it feels to me like Ashley is counting completely on this takeover happening in the very near future.

Obviously, for multi-billionaire Mike Ashley his problems aren’t to do with a serious lack of money, it is more to do with the mess that has built up at St James Park under his ownership, especially these last years. A mess he is now desperate to escape from and leave it for somebody else to sort out.

Rafa Benitez had put together a team that was greater than its individual parts on a very tight budget, the seventh best defensive record both seasons in the Premier League under the Spaniard. Then Rafa’s final 28 PL matches saw Newcastle with the eighth best form in the top tier, whilst his last 16 PL games once Almiron had been added and gave United pace – had NUFC with the fifth best form.

Mike Ashley then allowing £65m+ spending in summer 2019 to offset the fact of a massive downgrade in manager / head coach, Ashley though no doubt thinking he was bullet proof in avoiding relegation, as he hoped / expected to sell the club by the end of that 2019/20 season. Steve Bruce would have then done his job of NUFC crawling through another season as a stooge with no power, new owners would come in and Bruce would leave with a very nice retirement pay-off.

Rafa Benitez had been forced to rely almost entirely on the promotion team / squad, an ageing team / squad that was low on real quality. Ashley clearly believing that spending the money he hadn’t allowed Rafa to spend would further protect against any possible downturn. Well, between them, £45m of the £65m was wasted on Joelinton and Emil Krafth, two players worse than those already in the team. Only ASM a decent signing in summer 2019

The nightmare for Mike Ashley though had arrived, a never ending takeover process that has still now…never ended.

Instead of Steve Bruce filling in for just that one season before a takeover would be completed, Mike Ashley now having to look again at trying to ensure no relegation could threaten the ongoing takeover process.

In desperation in summer 2020, Ashley allowed the net spending under Steve Bruce to go beyond £100m in just over a year, as he looked to protect his asset from relegation and not ruin the possibility of a takeover. You hope you are proved wrong but it is looking like another £15m has been wasted on Jamal Lewis thanks to Ashley and his crack recruitment team, the NUFC owner thankfully desperate enough though to allow £20m to be spent on Callum Wilson, even though the striker is injury prone and would be in his 30s within 18 months of signing his NUFC deal.

In addition, the owner allowing high wages to be paid on older free transfer players who had ran their contracts down, in order to leave with no transfer fee involved and maximise wages at their new club. Unfortunately, this other short-term fix proving another big failure as Hendrick and Fraser failed to impress.

After allowing the £100m+ net spend to try and get by Steve Bruce, it looks very much like Mike Ashley has said no more.

Loads of Newcastle United’s rapidly ageing squad had seen their contracts ran right down with no movement from Ashley/NUFC.

However, with still no takeover happening and Mike Ashley not willing to allow spending on better quality from elsewhere, the decision taken to give numerous existing players new deals, in a desperate alternative attempt at safety based on almost exactly the same players.

A team / squad that will be missing Joe Willock and all but totally reliant on the injury prone Callum Wilson (started 23 of 38 PL games last season) for goals, Mike Ashley no doubt kidding himself that a few loans and/or free transfers will make up the gap in creativity and goals.

This is the only Ashley plan, other than desperately hoping a takeover will happen, Mike Ashley putting his biggest ever Newcastle United gamble in motion.

We are now 34 days into the transfer window with clearly no intention of realistic investment allowed, the Newcastle United squad have been back a week now and today start the training camp near York, pre-season friendlies starting in six days time and the season now kicking off in less than five weeks time.

Off the pitch it is a similar shambles, no season tickets on sale unlike the other 19 Premier League clubs, no financial information / accounts released from two seasons ago (2019/20) unlike the other 19 PL clubs, who knows what those financial figures will tell us about Ashley’s running of the club since Rafa Benitez was forced out…I doubt very much they will show him following up on his promise to pay £20m+ of Joelinton’s transfer fee.

A recent poll on The Mag, showed that only 14% of Newcastle fans think a takeover will happen before the transfer window shuts at the end of August, now only 50 days away.

Around a one in seven chance of Mike Ashley shifting the responsibility on to somebody else and them being able to act before this transfer market closes, to add much needed quality and youth.

With the same squad less Joe Willock (his goals helped NUFC pick up 17 of their 45 points in the games he scored in), difficult to see anything other than another relegation fight, everybody hoping that we are lucky enough to see three such woeful clubs end up at the very bottom. I just hope Newcastle United don’t end up as one of those three woeful clubs / teams under Mike Ashley and Steve Bruce…

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.’

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