Friday, August 14, 2020

Newcastle United back to square one after Saudi take-over bid fails

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Newcastle United head into the short English Premier League (EPL) close season surrounded by uncertainty.

This has come after the collapse of the proposed Saudi take-over ——-with an owner who wants to sell the club but with no viable purchaser in place.

Club owner Mike Ashley was ready to sell the club to the investment group in a deal worth more than 305 million pounds.

This group included Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund PIF, Amanda Staveley’s PCP Capital Partners and Reuben Brothers.

But the take-over bid, announced in April, never emerged from the Premier League’s owners and directors test and on Thursday the consortium pulled out.

Fans, who had dreamt of big money signings and competing for European places, now face a more mundane reality for a team which finished 13th in the Premier League last season.

While there have been some reports of possible interest from potential purchasers in the US, no actual proposal has appeared.

Sources close to the Saudi consortium said they never had to deal with any rival bid.

The consortium blamed the prolonged scrutiny process and global uncertainty linked to the COVID-19 pandemic for their decision to withdraw.

Staveley has however suggested there may yet be some way to get the deal done.

Newcastle United managing director Lee Charnley offered similar hope by saying Ashley, founder of retail firm Frasers Group, remains committed to the Saudi deal.

“We acknowledge yesterday’s statement. Never say never, but to be clear Mike Ashley is 100 percent committed to this deal.

“However our current focus must now be on supporting (manager) Steve Bruce in the transfer market and on the preparations for the new season,” he said.

Ashley has not taken the club off the market but his chances of finding a new buyer may be hampered by the economic uncertainty following the pandemic.

“It is genuinely unlikely at the moment. Premier League buyouts either need very deep pockets (sovereign funds, et cetera) or a high degree of borrowing,” said football finance expert Rob Wilson of Sheffield Hallam University.

“This risk associated with the latter in an unsteady market looks unlikely. Hence, with no Saudi acquisition, it looks difficult,” he added.

Newcastle United have not featured in the UEFA Champions League since 2004.

They have not even won the English title since 1927 or the FA Cup since 1955, in spite of claiming one of the country’s largest fan bases.

One of the key problems for the bid was the continued conflict over Saudi Arabia’s response to cases of unauthorised broadcasting of Premier League games in the country.

This is part of a long-running dispute between the kingdom and neighbouring Qatar.

A source close to the bid said that PIF had offered to put together a Saudi consortium to buy the rights to broadcast the games in Saudi Arabia.

This is in view of the fact that Qatari company BeIN Sports, who owns the rights, has had its licence to broadcast in the kingdom removed.

Another source close to the deal put the blame for its collapse firmly on the Premier League.

“The problem with the deal was the intransigence of the Premier League. Everyone else was happy to proceed,” the source said.

The Premier League, who last year hired legal counsel to deal with the broadcast issues in Saudi, has declined to comment.

Former Newcastle United and England forward Alan Shearer said on Friday that disappointed fans were hoping that a new owner would yet emerge.

“There’s a lot of anger, understandably so, and a massive amount of disappointment,” he said.

“We can only hope and pray that new owners come in at some stage and take the club back to where it belongs because that’s what the fans of Newcastle United deserve.”

  




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