Premier League clubs’ hostility to the takeover of Newcastle United was highlighted on Monday when they passed legislation to prevent Saudi owners from making lucrative sponsorship deals.
Newcastle made it clear at the emergency meeting of the 20 clubs that they consider the rule change, which would temporarily ban trade deals involving pre-existing business relationships, to be anti-competitive. They were represented by Lee Charnley, the outgoing general manager, rather than Amanda Staveley, the manager and minority stakeholder, who is now responsible for the day-to-day management of the club. Charnley has reportedly made it clear that his club have legal advice to say the amendment is illegal.
But the clubs continued with the vote and it was passed 18-2. In opposition to Newcastle were Manchester City, whose Abu Dhabi-based owners have benefited in the past from so-called related party transactions. One example is the deal which saw Etihad Airways, the Abu Dhabi government-owned carrier, sponsor them.
Many Premier League clubs fear the Saudi owners of Newcastle will strike deals in the oil-rich kingdom which could give them an advantage. Clubs want preventative measures in place that would prevent this or ensure that fair market value has been paid.
The rule will be in effect next month – and it will apply to all 20 clubs – but many of them want it or something similar to become a permanent feature. A working group should be set up – comprising a representative sample of clubs – to study any changes to be made. Newcastle were asked if they would like to participate.
The Premier League were already studying these issues and remain involved in a long-standing investigation into whether City have broken financial fair play rules. The city has denied any wrongdoing.
Following the takeover of Newcastle, the other 19 clubs demanded a special meeting with the League, wanting to understand why the deal was signed. This meeting took place last Tuesday, with some clubs present in person at the league’s headquarters in Paddington and others connecting through conference software.
Immediately after, the 19 clubs met to discuss the financial implications of having the Saudis as contenders. This led to the proposed temporary ban on related party transactions – Newcastle would be informed – and then to Monday’s meeting.