Newcastle take legal action against Premier League for failed Saudi takeover
Newcastle United, the English soccer club, have opened legal proceedings against the Premier League over the collapsed takeover by a Saudi Arabia-backed consortium in the summer.
The club’s owner Mike Ashley confirmed he has hired lawyers to open proceedings against the league in the hope of reviving the deal.
In September, Newcastle alleged that the league was responsible for the withdrawal of the £300 million ($398 million) offer from a group including Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund PIF, Amanda Staveley's PCP Capital Partners and the Reuben Brothers in July.
However, the Premier League has always maintained that the consortium withdrew before it was asked to make an assessment of the suitability of the members involved, and said it was “disappointed and surprised” at the club’s statement.
Ashley is now seeking a hearing before an arbitration panel which could potentially take place next month.
In a statement, the Newcastle owner said: “The club makes no comment on the substance of the arbitration but it can confirm that it has issued arbitration proceedings against the EPL.
“It is unclear when those proceedings will be resolved, given the approach of the EPL and its lawyer, Bird and Bird. Nevertheless, the club will continue to use its best efforts to press for a fair, full and timely hearing of its claim.”
The club rejected an offer of independent arbitration from the Premier League in the summer and is now also claiming the league broke a confidentiality clause when it "leaked the contents" of a letter about the proceedings to a supporter group.
Newcastle said they have not previously commented on the proceedings "with respect to its conduct relating to the proposed takeover because of the confidentiality clause in the EPL's rules."
It relates to Newcastle Consortium Supporters Ltd sending a letter to the Premier League, "questioning the body's conduct in the owners' and directors' test".
The supporters' club says it received a response from the Premier League's lawyers confirming there was already a legal dispute from the club.
In a club statement, Newcastle said: "The source of some of the reporting is said to be the EPL. It appears, therefore, that the EPL has leaked the contents of their letter to some of those commenting in the public domain.”
Concerns were expressed over the proposed acquisition of Newcastle from Ashley because of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and the country's harbouring of beoutQ, a pirate broadcaster that has been responsible for the stealing of content from companies including BeIN Media Group, the Premier League rights holder in the Middle East and North Africa.
Earlier this year, the Premier League spent 17 weeks reviewing the takeover as part of its owners and directors test, a process which typically takes up to four weeks.
With no decision forthcoming, the consortium eventually withdrew its offer for the club despite the deal reaching its final stages.
Under the consortium’s plan, Staveley was to run the business on behalf of the consortium but the Premier League reportedly had concerns over the involvement of the Saudi state and a lack of clarity over who will be running the club.
The takeover was further complicated by a World Trade Organisation report released in June which said representatives of the Saudi state had facilitated beoutQ.
Bellagraph Nova Group, the Singapore-backed company, and US businessman and television executive Henry Mauriss are also believed to be interested in buying Newcastle.