GIVEN that their club has not won a major domestic trophy of 65 years, Newcastle United, the fans have gotten used to having to wait. So, it says it all that even their patience has reached its limits by the endless delay in the Premier League ratification process of Amanda Staveley’s proposed takeover of the club.
As the board of directors of the owners and directors test extends up to the 12th week, the resumption of the proceedings has long since been entered in the fields of the stuffing. It is very good to be thorough. But as the days have ticked in the weeks and weeks have passed of the month, it increasingly looks as if the Premier League leaders are terrified at the idea of taking a decision. As a child to close their eyes, put their fingers in their ears and praying that a difficult situation will simply disappear, those charged by the English football league leader to assess the proposed takeover at St James’ seem to have decided that inaction is their best policy.
We have trawled through allegations of Saudi-sponsored piracy of the broadcast and assessed the results of this week’s report produced by the World Trade Organization. We watched from afar as Staveley has laid bare some of his business relationships in the course of the High Court battle with Barclays and shook his head in perplexity as the stories broke suggesting there are other bidders waiting in the wings, ready to do anything to seal a £350 million deal.
We know about all this – and so do the Premier League. So, after three months of waiting, it is no longer an excuse not to act. There are already more than enough evidence for the Prime minister, the leaders of the League of law anyway.
In the end, it is a simple choice. If the Premier League want to block Staveley of the offer, they can. This week the report of the WTO did not level specific allegations against some members of the Saudi regime or to refer to the situation of the Public Investment Fund, which hopes to achieve an 80% stake in Newcastle. He accused the Saudi regime not to act against the illegal broadcasting of matches by beoutQ though, and Qatari Bein channel, a partner of the Premier League, claim to have evidence that the Saudi state has been prevented from taking measures to prevent games illegally streaming.
Throw in the concerns of Saudi Arabia in the field of human rights, as expressed eloquently in a letter by Hatice Cengiz, the fiancée of the murder of a journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and the Premier League, should be able to build a business by allowing them to say no. Such an approach would help win the favour of Bein, one of its most important partners, broadcasters, and may lead to the more lucrative overseas TV deals in the future. However, it would almost certainly be the result of the action of the Staveley camp.
Otherwise, there is a lot of margin of manoeuvre for the Premier League to go the other way and give the matter the green light. This week the report of the WTO shaved some of the charges to the Saudi state, but by the fact of not identifying individuals, it has allowed the Premier League to argue that it is not in a position to pin widespread criticism of the Saudi rules on the specific representatives who will be involved in the running of Newcastle.
Similarly, it is impossible to defend Saudi Arabia in the field of human rights, other Premier League clubs have spent in the hands of individuals or regimes, with a very murky past and the present. The Government regard the Saudis as desirable business partners, and yesterday, when asked a direct question on a Saudi takeover of Newcastle on Sky News, foreign affairs minister Dominic Raab, said: “This country is an open country, oriented towards the outside of the country, we have investors from all over the world, it’s just that we welcome the commitment, the investment in football in this country.” If the Premier League want a justification for the sanction of the Saudi arabia supported the candidacy of, they were there.
Accept Saudi, the investment would be unpopular in the world of broadcasting, as well as with UEFA and FIFA, and exposure of the Premier League for the suggestions they have marked the beginning of the killers and tyrants in English, the meeting rooms.
But the reality is that the league can’t have everything. They can’t keep their broadcast partners happy and convey an image of enlightened respectability while avoiding the threat of long and costly legal action.
In short, it is decision time. The current delay makes the Premier League, we are weak and undecided, and is grossly unfair on Newcastle, a club stuck in a blank state of limbo as Project Restart from the crank speed.
Until the people in charge at St James’ Park for the moment to know what is happening, a series of key decisions remain unmade. Players ‘ contracts are due to expire at the end of this month, but long-term offers will not be available until the ownership situation is clarified. Newcastle are the only Premier League club not to be refunded season-ticket holders for the matches that will take place behind-closed-doors. That is unlikely to change until the future is clear.
The whole thing is a mess, but the ball is in the Premier League of the court and their next will be decisive. At the minute, however, the indecision continues to rule.