Newcastle United lost £10m in failed Saudi takeover bid

Club owner claims broadcaster beIN and other clubs improperly lobbied Premier League over £300m deal

Newcastle United Football Club lost more than £10 million ($13.43 million) as a result of the collapse of a Saudi-backed takeover of the club, a tribunal has heard.

Other top-flight clubs and the Doha-based broadcaster beIN improperly influenced the Premier League, leading to a decision that effectively blocked the £300m agreement last year, according to a lawyer for Mike Asley, the club’s owner.

The deal collapsed after the league ruled that the kingdom would be a director and subject to an ownership test. It was unlikely to pass the test in part because of a dispute between beIN, which held Premier League rights for the Middle East and Africa, and the Saudis over piracy of matches that were screened in the kingdom.

A claim brought this year by St James Holdings Ltd (SJHL), a company owned by Mr Ashley, said that the club sale was scuppered as the league discussed a new three-year broadcast deal with beIN.

The broadcast deal was announced five months after the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) pulled out of negotiations to buy Newcastle.

SJHL brought the claim at the UK’s Competition Appeals Tribunal, saying that it suffered financial losses because the lobbying campaign by beIN and rival clubs distorted the league’s objective applications of the rules.

The claim is based on the current market value compared with the proposed sale price under the arrangement. The claim will be higher if Newcastle, currently one place above the drop zone in 17th position, is relegated.

Daniel Jowell, the lawyer for SJHL, said that a number of “major clubs that control or strongly influence the Premier League” lobbied its executive along with beIN, which held several meetings with Premier League chief executive Richard Masters.

"We say this lobbying distorted the Premier League's fair and objective application of the rules. The result of all of this is that PIF pulled out of the takeover," he said.

The Premier League is seeking to have the case thrown out and says an arbitration hearing in January over the issue of who would be directors in the event of a takeover would decide all the issues at stake.

Adam Lewis told the tribunal that the club could not show that it suffered any losses and the deal could still go ahead.

“It does not have standing to bring this claim,” he told the tribunal. “It has to show loss has occurred. They have shot their bolt too quickly."

Mr Justice Miles said the tribunal would "go away and consider with care" the evidence before coming to a decision.

Updated: September 30th 2021, 10:03 AM
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