Bin Zayed Group insists Newcastle United takeover is on course

The Dubai organisation says it has provided proof of funds and sent documents to Premier League

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - APRIL 14:  Newcastle fans show off their flags and banners before the Sky Bet Championship match between Newcastle United and Leeds United at St James' Park on April 14, 2017 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
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A Dubai business group in talks to purchase Newcastle United on Wednesday said it remains on course to acquire the club.

The Bin Zayed Group said it had agreed terms for the purchase of the Premier League side from owner Mike Ashley, and this was “reflected in a document, signed by both parties, which has been forwarded to the Premier League”.

It said it had provided proof of funds to Ashley, the British sportswear tycoon, by sending a statement to his lawyers on April 17.

The comments appear to have been issued in response to media speculation in the UK, where it had been widely reported that documentation had not been submitted to the Premier League, which carries out a vetting procedure before approving a change in ownership.

It had also been claimed that proof of funds – meaning evidence of sufficient resources to complete a deal – was yet to be provided.

This was contradicted by the new statement from the Bin Zayed Group, which suggested the vetting process is already under way.

A  Premier League spokesman declined to say whether it had received any documentation, saying it was a matter for the parties involved in the deal and that it would not give a “running commentary” on any potential takeover.

Midhat Kidwai, managing director of the Bin Zayed Group, said: “In consideration of the numerous speculations in regards to the timelines of the acquisition of Newcastle United Football Club by Bin Zayed Group, we feel the need to issue this statement.

"Terms have been agreed between us and Mike Ashley; these terms have been reflected in a document, signed by both parties, which has been forwarded to the Premier League.

"The proof of funds statement was forwarded to Mike Ashley’s lawyers on 17 April 2019.

"The so called fit-and-proper Premier League process is a standard procedure which will take time, and we are doing all we can to assist the Premier League during this process.

"We feel the need to clarify this point in order for the fans and the general public to understand the timelines."

The prospect of a deal has been greeted overwhelmingly positively by supporters of the club, which is seen as one of European football’s sleeping giants.

The Bin Zayed Group's chairman is Sheikh Khaled bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who founded the conglomerate in 1988.

The price would reportedly be £350m (Dh1.6 billion) and comes after the club secured a 13th-placed finish in the Premier League.

Ashley’s 12-year ownership has been unpopular with supporters, who have accused him of under investment in players and infrastructure, as well as disrespecting club legends such as Alan Shearer and Kevin Keegan.

Supporters are desperate for Rafa Benitez, the popular Spanish manager, to agree an extension to his contract, which is currently due to expire at the end of June.

Newcastle United declined to comment.