KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTS: Newcastle fans have enlisted the support of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in the row over the collapsed purchase of the club by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund.
Much-criticised owner Mike Ashley accepted a £300m Saudis offer for the club back in April. However a verdict from the Premier League was delayed while officials considered a conflict over media rights. This arose from Saudi Arabia’s harbouring of the beoutQ channel which had been pirating EPL broadcasts contracted to Qatar’s beIN Sport.
Eventually the Saudis pulled out of the deal and Newcastle fans not only blamed the Premier League but complained that the EPL had not officially explained its concerns. Sheffield United, after all, are already owned by Saudi Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
The Independent Football Ombudsman, set up by the FA and the English leagues, says it has advised the Premier League to make a statement. In vain. A fans’ group, the Newcastle United Supporters Trust, took their complaint to Prime Minister Johnson.
He replied, by email: “I appreciate that many Newcastle supporters were hoping this takeover would go ahead and can understand their disappointment.
“I have seen the email sent to Newcastle fans by the IFO and agree with its conclusion that the Premier League should make a statement on this case.
“There must be clarity on why there was a significant delay in a decision being made and on the reasons why the consortium decided to withdraw its bid.”
The proposed purchase would have seen the Saudi PIF take 80pc of the club with 10pc for the Reuben Brothers investment company and 10pc for PCP Property vehicle of negotiator Amanda Staveley. In May David and Simon Reuben were listed as the UK’s second richest family by The Sunday Times.
One other possibility exists for Ashley in his attempt to sell the club.
American businessman Henry Mauriss has been watching the takeover saga for most of this year. He has seen the success achieved by Fenway Sports Group at Liverpool but whether he is prepared to match Ashley’s £300m valuation of the club is questionable.
Newcastle finished 13th in the Premier League after an unexciting season under boyhood fan Steve Bruce in which they never competed for a European place but were never seriously in danger of relegation.