2020 – the year of the coronavirus pandemic, masked shoppers and Pizza-gate.
However seemingly even more wild is the emergence of Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley as the unlikely saviour of the Saudi takeover deal, and in turn, Newcastle United.
As we all know and saw, April 2020 brought news of a constant unsurprising aspect of Newcastle United fans lives – a takeover story.
PIF, the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, came armed and dangerous with allies of renowned businesswoman Amanda Staveley and current owners of Queens Park Rangers Football Club, the Reuben brothers. Together tried to rally a bid that would’ve seen Newcastle United as one of not only the richest clubs in the Premier League but in the world.
The Premier League rejected the takeover deal, and the rejection brought with it the threat of legal action from Mr Ashley himself with all interested parties insisting that this was not the end.
This brings us to October 2020 and the news that members of a fan-led consortium, Newcastle Consortium Supporters Limited, have issued a ‘Letter Before Action’ to the Premier League supposedly backed by Mike Ashley and his current legal team, including leading Sports law QC Nick De Marco.
This fan-led group and their instructed QC, namely Robert O’Donoghue, have sent documents to the Premier League purporting that the halting of the £300million plus deal was against UK anti-competition law.
In their statement, the group believe the rejection of the takeover “infringed competition law”, specifically through the Owners & Directors test, and are seeking any and all documents in possession of the Premier League relating to this deal. The letter gives the Premier League until 4pm on 3rd November 2020 to respond and if this is not adhered to, the group intend to “commence legal proceedings forthwith against the Premier League for breach of competition law”. Their main aim is to be understood as to get the rejection overturned.
This news comes on the back of a week which saw Jamie Reuben, one of the spearheads of the Newcastle takeover deal stepping down from his position at QPR Football Club in “respect” for QPR fans, on top of Newcastle manager Steve Bruce claiming he “won’t be in the job much longer” and ‘bread-gate,’ where the lawyer in charge of Mike Ashley’s legal team sent Twitter into a meltdown over pictures of bread that included Black & White named champagne and bottles of Newcastle Brown Ale.
Also this week, Ashley himself shockingly & unusually released a statement opposing to the £14.95 pay-per-view costs that were introduced for Premier league games at the beginning of the month.
In his statement Ashley said;
“I am calling on the Premier League to immediately act and review its current pay-per-view arrangements. Charging £14.95 for single televised matches in the current climate is not acceptable to any football fan.“
He then goes onto advise the Premier League that reducing the price to £4.95 would make the matches “more accessible” to those who cannot attend games currently and any money retained from these PPV arrangements should be split equally between the Premier League & the football pyramid below.”
This all came as a huge surprise to Newcastle fans who know Ashley as a greedy businessman only interested in himself, and also a kick in the teeth to those fans still having season ticket money taken from the club monthly.
We know that Mike Ashley is more willing than ever to sell the club and is actively doing everything in his power to get this deal the green light. He is even attending most games which comes as a surprise to fans considering his notable absence in recent years, since the anti-Ashley chants echoed around St James’ Park. Maybe he is only there because the beloved fans aren’t allowed in stadiums for the foreseeable.
No one truly knows for certain what the real reason is, or what will happen at the club regarding the takeover. However, I think all Newcastle United fans can agree that the even less expected outcome of this is that the infamous Toon villain Ashley may just end up being Newcastle United’s hero.