Newcastle United Trying to Resurrect Saudi-Backed Deal

Ashley Still Attempting to Sell Newcastle to Saudis

From financing to receiving approval, buying a Premier League football club is immensely difficult. After buying Newcastle United in 2007, owner Mike Ashley has struggled to sell the club, with the present bid from Saudi Arabia stalling.

 

Ashley Wants to Depart Tyneside

It’s been no secret that Ashley wants to sell his stake in Newcastle. However, it costs hundreds of millions of pounds to buy a Premier League football club and there aren’t many buyers out there. In fact, there will now be even fewer willing to acquire Newcastle, what with the COVID-19 pandemic not disappearing or easing any time soon.

Fans of the Magpies have been frustrated with Ashley for many years now, with the root cause being the Sports Direct owner’s lack of ambition. In the ‘90s, Newcastle challenged for Premier League titles under former manager Kevin Keegan, whereas the intervening years have not been so fruitful. Ultimately, fans have been disappointed with how the lack of Newcastle United transfers has yielded a poor playing squad.

Since legendary Newcastle striker Alan Shearer retired in 2006, the club has struggled to attract players of lasting quality. Because Ashley arrived a year after Shearer, the fans blame him, and it’s difficult to see it any other way when the owner is the man who controls the transfer budget. In recent seasons, Ashley has bought the likes of Joelinton and Calum Wilson, though the moves might have come too late.

 

Saudi Bid for Newcastle Revived

Earlier in 2020, a consortium comprised of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), Reuben Brothers and PCP Capital Partners failed to acquire Ashley’s shares in Newcastle when the Premier League caused a £300 million bid to collapse. Despite providing the necessary funds to appease Ashley, the consortium failed the Premier League owners’ and directors’ test.

Typically, the test is intended to only require a month. However, the consortium withdrew the £300 million offer after waiting for more than 17 weeks. The league is said to have doubted the consortium’s integrity, with Saudi Arabian crown prince Mohammed bin Salman also serving as the governor of PIF. Further concerns included issues of broadcast piracy and human rights violations in the country.

Following that news in September, many fans believed that the prospect of a takeover was dead. However, Ashley has hired a leading sports barrister in a quest to bring legal action against the decision. Considering the cost, it is believed that Ashley has received guarantees from the Saudi Arabian consortium that they still want to purchase Newcastle United if the deal can be approved.

Premier League Continues During Lockdown

Fans living in the UK have struggled in 2020, with various local and national lockdowns forcing the closure of pubs where they would have often watched matches. And, with an English lockdown in place throughout November 2020, it looks like spring 2021 is the earliest possible time where small numbers of fans can be allowed back into major football stadiums. Any campaigns to allow fans back have since been thwarted by an upturn of COVID-19 cases in England.

Although denied access to stadiums, fans can appreciate that the league has not been postponed during the latest national lockdown. Liverpool fans can feel especially pleased that football has been allowed to continue, what with the Reds charging to the top of the Premier League table. Jurgen Klopp can now focus on coaching the holders to their second consecutive league title in as many seasons.

The lack of fans in the stadiums and the late starts for some clubs have yielded some strange results. In the space of one Sunday, Man Utd lost 6-1 at home to Tottenham and Liverpool were thumped 8-2 away at Aston Villa. However, there are signs that things have begun to level out, with Liverpool having already risen to the top of the table and Man City slowly exhibiting signs of life in the attack. Of course, it has not helped that key playmaker Kevin De Bruyne suffered a minor injury.

Tottenham have also rebounded following a nightmare start against Everton, having recorded big wins against Southampton and Man Utd. After seven league games, Spurs registered 18 goals thanks to the prolific partnership between the speedy Son Heung-min and star striker Harry Kane. Some of the other top teams to watch have been Leicester City, Aston Villa, Everton and the newly promoted Leeds.

 

COVID Testing in the Premier League

In the Premier League, clubs have the resources to perform ongoing rounds of testing to ensure that any players or coaches with Coronavirus are identified early. After testing positive, individuals are then required to leave the team and complete an isolation period. In most cases, this results in a return to the team in approximately two weeks – Liverpool’s Sadio Mané and Man Utd’s Alex Telles are just two examples of this approach in action.

In September, the clubs were informed that matches would go ahead even if several players tested positive for Coronavirus. After the difficulty in completing the previous season, the Premier League wants to avoid the threat of fixture congestion in the current campaign.

The Daily Mail also reported that clubs can’t make a postponement request unless they are down to just 14 players or fewer. Amazingly, those 14 players would include under-21s at the club. However, this is a strange demand as under-21s are training in separate bubbles to senior squads and there is a minimal transition between these groups because clubs are desperate to avoid outbreaks among their players.

Thus far, the testing has worked and so has the creation of bubbles, even if international football has caused some players to come into contact with teammates who have since tested positive. As of early November, there have not been any postponements in the schedule. If all continues as planned, the 20/21 Premier League season shall conclude on 23 May. As a contingency, the league has assigned a backstop date of 15 August in case the competition has to be extended.

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