More than 70,000 Newcastle fans have signed a petition demanding the Premier League explain its handling of the apparently collapsed Saudi Arabian-led takeover attempt.
The initiative has been backed by several former Newcastle players including the former England midfielder Rob Lee, who has urged supporters to sign it.
As sources close to the £300m deal indicated it was not quite dead, the pressure on Richard Masters, the league’s chief executive, to break his silence has intensified.
The Newcastle United Supporters Trust (NUST) hopes its petition will force Masters to answer its questions as to why the buyout from Mike Ashley fell through last week when Saudi’s Public Investment Fund, Reuben Brothers and Amanda Staveley withdrew their offer. Premier League intransigence was among the reasons cited.
The governing body has declined numerous invitations to comment on the takeover and NUST, which is also sending its email petition to Boris Johnson, is calling for an independent investigation.
The complicated, and controversial, bid had been subject to the Premier League’s owners’ and directors’ test for 17 weeks when the consortium walked away. Since then Ashley has made a concerted attempt to revive negotiations and he and Reuben Brothers have made separate statements stating they remain “committed to the deal”.
NUST has also contacted the Independent Football Ombudsman , which has said it will not get involved but will advise the Premier League to “explain how the case was handled”.
Sources close to the deal reiterated that PIF had intended to invest “hundreds of millions of pounds” in regenerating the north-east’s economy after taking an 80% stake in the club. In a statement on Monday the billionaire property developer Reuben Brothers, which would have assumed a 10% holding, made plain its hope that the takeover could be resurrected.
Martin Cruddace, CEO of the Reuben Brothers’ Arena Racing Company, which owns Newcastle’s Gosforth Park racecourse, said his employer had, among other things, planned to help the Saudis establish a “hub of sporting excellence” in the north-east. “We would welcome any resurrection of talks and progress with the Premier League,” Cruddace said. “The Reuben brothers remain totally supportive of the deal should there be a way forward.”