The Premier League chief executive, Richard Masters, has responded to MP Chi Onwurah’s plea for clarity over the Newcastle United takeover amid mounting frustration on Tyneside.
It is the first time the governing body has commented publicly on the matter, which has engulfed the city since news of PCP Capital Partners’ largely Saudi-funded £340m bid was made public in April.
In his letter to the Newcastle Central MP, Masters wrote: “I fully appreciate that the issue of a potential change in the ownership of Newcastle United Football Club (NUFC) is of great importance to you, as the MP for the area and as a fan, as it is to NUFC’s entire fanbase, and I would like to deal directly with the questions you raise.”
Masters confirmed that after an impasse was reached in the league’s owners’ and directors’ test, Amanda Staveley’s consortium, under which Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) is seeking to buy an 80% stake in the club, declined an offer of independent arbitration.
He wrote: “In June, the Premier League board made a clear determination as to which entities it believed would have control over the club following the proposed acquisition, in accordance with the Premier League rules. Subsequently, the Premier League then asked each such person or entity to provide additional information, which would then have been used to consider the assessment of any possible disqualifying events.
“In this matter, the consortium disagreed with the Premier League’s determination that one entity would fall within the criteria requiring the provision of this information. The Premier League recognised this dispute, and offered the consortium the ability to have the matter determined by an independent arbitral tribunal if it wished to challenge the conclusion of the board. The consortium chose not to take up that offer, but nor did it procure the provision of the additional information. Later, it (or PIF specifically) voluntarily withdrew from the process.”
Masters’ comments came after the consortium withdrew its bid for the club having waited in vain for the green light, although the current owner Mike Ashley has insisted he remains committed to the deal, 17 weeks after the matter first went to the Premier League.
The league’s chief executive also dismissed suggestions that rival clubs had vetoed the deal. “The owners’ and directors’ test is delegated to and carried out entirely by the Premier League Board,” he said. “Other member clubs have no role whatsoever in the approval process.”