Financier blames league for failed Newcastle bid

A fan displaying a banner referring to Newcastle owner Mike Ashley during the Magpies' match against Arsenal at the Emirates in February.
A fan displaying a banner referring to Newcastle owner Mike Ashley during the Magpies' match against Arsenal at the Emirates in February.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • One of the partners in the Saudi Arabian-led consortium has blamed the English Premier League for the collapse of their £305 million (S$540 million) takeover bid of Newcastle United.

Amanda Staveley, whose investment firm PCP Capital Partners was part of a group comprising the kingdom's sovereign wealth arm, the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), and British property billionaire brothers, David and Simon Reuben, claimed their interest in the deal had died as the English top flight "kept moving the goal posts".

Asked if the consortium blamed the Premier League, British financier Staveley told The Times of London: "Of course we do. They had a chance, they say we have not answered all the questions and we have done so. But the other clubs in the Premier League didn't want it to happen.

"We are so heartbroken for the Newcastle fans as the investment that was going to go into the club, especially with everything happening with Brexit and Covid, would have been so important.

"This is catastrophic for them. It has been going on for so long and the opportunity was there."

When the bid was announced in March, it appeared like the deal would be rubber-stamped, pending the Premier League's owners and directors test.

But the coronavirus pandemic meant it had to be placed on the back-burner, with the competition restarting only three months later.

During that period, questions arose over pirate broadcasts of Premier League games in Saudi Arabia by state-sponsored rogue network beoutQ, on top of opposition by human rights campaigners.

However, Staveley insisted the group had cleared up the doubts only to be stonewalled by the Premier League, telling The Athletic: "The piracy issue was not an issue but we tried to resolve it anyway. They tried to make the state of Saudi a director.

 

"The Premier League made it so hard. It would be unprecedented. No country has ever become a director of a club. It's ridiculous."

The failure of the bid, which had a guarantee of £250 million to be spent on building the team over the next five years, left Newcastle fans devastated that Mike Ashley will remain the club's owner.

Since taking over at St James' Park in 2007, the founder of British sports good retailer Sport Direct has faced criticism over his unwillingness to dip into the transfer market and many Magpies fans saw the offer as a chance to revitalise the sleeping giants.

Expressing their frustration, the Newcastle United Supporters Trust said: "The supporters have been treated with contempt by large parts of the football media and the Premier League during this failed takeover... We need answers."

BLOOMBERG, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 01, 2020, with the headline 'Financier blames league for failed Newcastle bid'. Print Edition | Subscribe