Premier League Chief Richard Masters Breaks Silence on Failed Newcastle Takeover

Robbie Copeland
Aug 14, 2020, 4:30 PM GMT+1
Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters has responded to questions about the Newcastle takeover
Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters has responded to questions about the Newcastle takeover | Alex Morton/Getty Images

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has provided a written response to questions regarding the collapse of the Saudi-backed Newcastle United takeover.

The Premier League's inferred reluctance to green-light the £300m takeover came as negotiations dragged for 17 weeks, eventually leading to the consortium, headlined by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, to withdraw earlier this month.

The controversial proposed takeover split those in the footballing community. While many held concerns over the Saudi government's human rights records and alleged TV piracy, some have criticised the Premier League's handling of the situation and called for transparency in the process.

The issue became political with Newcastle fans starting petitions and writing to their local MPs in their thousands to urge the Premier League to address the reasons for the ultimately failed takeover, with even Prime Minister Boris Johnson backing calls for a statement.

Labour MP Chi Onwurah, who represents the Newcastle Central constituency, wrote to the league's governing body late last month with a number of questions, to which the Premier League has now responded.

Here are some of the key sections from the three-page latter.

On Reasons for Delay

On the delays to the process, the letter, signed by chief executive Masters reads: "There are no timescales prescribed by the rules in relation to the Owners' and Directors' Test and they generally take considerably longer than a month to complete.

"Changes of ownership can range from the straightforward to the complex and we therefore treat each case individually. Thorough investigation and resolution of any questions or issues that may arise take time, and we are of the view that the long-term interests of supporters are best served by taking as long as is needed to address all issues of importance properly. "

On Ownership Structure Confusion

One major stumbling block in the process seems to have been clarity on the ownership structure, with Masters writing: "In June, the Premier League board made a clear determination as to which entities it believed would have control over the club following the proposed acquisition, in accordance with the Premier League rules.

“Subsequently, the Premier League then asked each such person or entity to provide the Premier League with additional information, which would then have been used to consider the assessment of any possible disqualifying events.

“In this matter, the consortium disagreed with the Premier League’s determination that one entity would fall within the criteria requiring the provision of this information.

“The Premier League recognised this dispute and offered the consortium the ability to have the matter determined by an independent arbitral tribunal if it wished to challenge the conclusion of the board.

“The consortium chose not to take up that offer, but nor did it procure the provision of the additional information. Later, it (or PIF specifically) voluntarily withdrew from the process.”

On Commercial Interests & IP Infringements

Some have suggested that human rights concerns were not in fact the league's main motivation behind holding up the takeover, with commercial considerations instead taking precedence.

Mohammed Bin Salman - the Saudi Crown Prince and man behind the PiF
Mohammed Bin Salman - the Saudi Crown Prince and man behind the PiF | Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

On this subject, the letter goes on: "The Owners' and Directors' Test includes a wide range of disqualifying offences and events, including specific reference to intellectual property infringements. These are critically important to the Premier League's commercial interests and that of our member clubs.

"Broadcast revenues are the principal source of income for a majority of our clubs, including Newcastle United. As noted above, the PIF announced its withdrawal from the process before the board was required to come to any conclusions on this aspect of the test."

On External Influences

On the issue of whether other clubs or anyone else external had influence the proceedings, Masters wrote: "The owners’ and directors’ test is delegated to and carried out entirely by the Premier League Board.

"Other member clubs have no role whatsoever in the approval process.”