Newcastle lose High Court case in latest blow to Saudi-backed takeover

Newcastle suffer new takeover setback as High Court bid to remove chairman of arbitration panel is rejected ahead of appeal to Premier League over failure for Saudi-backed consortium to pass owners’ and directors’ test

  • Newcastle have lost a High Court bid in relation to their takeover arbitration  
  • The club wanted the Premier League’s panel chairman removed from process
  • However, their claims on the grounds of apparent bias have been rejected  

Newcastle United have lost a High Court case against the Premier League over the members of their arbitration panel in another significant blow to takeover hopes.

The North East clubs had petitioned for the removal of the chairman of the arbitration panel on grounds of apparent bias.

The top flight’s panel is set to adjudicate on the reasons behind the failed takeover of Amanda Staveley’s Saudi-backed consortium last year.

Newcastle United have suffered another blow in their bid to force through the club’s takeover

However, Newcastle argue that, as the chairman advised the Premier League on introducing the rule on which the prospective owners are falling foul in the director’s test, they should be removed from the process.

That is the ruling that no owner involved in broadcast piracy can past the Owners and Directors Test. The legal wrangle between BeIN Sports and Saudi Arabia is key, with the Premier League deciding that the Saudi Public Investment Fund backing the takeover is run by their government.

However, a ruling on Friday dismissed the claim, although it was critical on the conduct of the Premier League and the panel’s chairman. 

In a lengthy statement, Newcastle said: ‘The Club made the application because two weeks after the Chairman had been appointed the lawyers representing the Premier League, Bird & Bird, disclosed information that the Club had previously been unaware of. 

‘In particular, Bird & Bird disclosed that the Chairman had provided confidential advice to the EPL in 2017.

‘Although the advice was not provided to the Club, the Club was informed that the Chairman had advised the EPL on amendments to its ‘Owners and Directors Test’ (‘OADT’) in Section F of its Rules. 

‘Shortly after the Chairman provided that advice in 2017 the Rules were changed to prevent a foreign owner involved in alleged broadcasting piracy from passing the test.

Mike Ashley has made it clear he wishes for a speedy resolution to the faltering deal

‘The Club is disappointed with the Court’s judgment on this issue. As noted at the end of the Judgment, the Club submitted that the Judge did not address all of the Club’s arguments. 

‘The Club is committed to the speedy and fair determination of its claim so that the proposed takeover can go ahead as soon as possible. However, it felt it had to make this application given the need for the dispute to be determined by way of a fair process. 

‘The Club is considering whether or not to pursue an appeal.’

Mike Ashley has previously released statements asserting his disappointment with the speed of the process and the hold up of the takeover.

The club has in the pass taken aim at the Premier League’s lack of transparency on the process, and they did welcome the judge’s decision to publish the hearing in full. 

‘The Club also wanted the Judgment to be published, even though it was dissatisfied with the outcome,’ the statement went on to say. 

Amanda Staveley put together a consortium in 2020 that was backed by Saudi Arabia’s PIF

‘Meanwhile, the EPL attempted to prevent it from being published at all. The EPL said that if it was published it should be heavily redacted and anonymised so that readers would not be able to identify the dispute. 

‘Unfortunately, this is consistent with the EPL’s lack of transparency over the takeover. The Club won on this point. The Judge rejected the EPL’s arguments and said there was a “public interest” in publication of the Judgment. 

‘The Club welcomes the fact that at least its supporters, and the wider public interested in the takeover and the dispute, will now be able to have some information about the process.’

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