5 questions that remain as Newcastle takeover becomes political

The Premier League have been “advised” to make a statement on the collapsed Newcastle takeover bid – as it becomes political.

The on-off-still unresolved £300m deal has reached an intriguing stage, which has left many Geordie fans hoping it is not dead.

The Football Ombudsman has asked top flight bosses to explain why they took so long examining the takeover.

And a northern Tory group of MPs have sensed they could wield influence on a populist issue.

Conservative Hexham MP Guy Opperman has been filmed chatting to new North West Durham MP Richard Holden, saying: “If they can get the deal back on the table, that’s what we all want.

“There is no doubt that there are a lot of constituents, in North West Durham, Hexham, across Northumberland, or from all across the North East who are passionate about this, and the Premier League need to start listening.”

Meanwhile Labour MPs have stood with fans demanding Premier League reaction.

That is despite the buyers – the Saudi state, through their Public Investment Fund – usually attracting condemnation from opposition benches.

After almost five months of wrangling, what now?

1. Where does the takeover stand?

The buyers walked away, withdrawing their offer, but then came back days later with tantalising hints it wasn’t dead.

The Saudi PIF could put their £300m back on table if they got assurances it would be approved by the Premier League.

Fan power has been weaponised to increase the pressure on the league. But that pressure would be even greater if the deal was still on the table.

Briefing that the Premier League were “unprofessional” and “irrationally delaying” after it collapsed won’t exactly have oiled the deal. And if resurrected it would encounter all the same issues that stalled it.

Sources close to Ashley have reaffirmed he is still in dialogue with the PIF consortium and is committed to the deal.

2. Who do fans blame?

A remarkable 100,000 signed a petition demanding the PL explain why it took 18 weeks to run an Owners’ and Directors’ test, without making a decision.

Football authorities should be transparent, so some sort of explanation should be made.

But the League are trapped. They couldn’t comment on a private commercial deal bound up by non-disclosure agreements during the process.

Now the Saudis offer is withdrawn, how can they comment on a proposal that is officially over? The league has been backed into a corner.

3. Could high-level politics and lobbying get it done?

Boris Johnson ’s ministers have consistently said the takeover is not a Government issue.

Hearing the Premier League, the FA, BBC, rugby and cricket all raise concerns about piracy of their broadcast rights in Saudi, devaluing a major British export, is believed to have turned any political tide against the deal.

But Johnson was reported, in January, to have a WhatsApp hotline to Mohammed Bin Salman, the Saudi Crown Prince ruler and chairman of the Public Investment Fund. Could he intervene, sensing a populist opportunity up North?

QPR director Jamie Reuben was tipped to join the board at St James’ Park, with his £16bn family taking a 10% stake.

Mayfair property tycoon Reuben was committee chairman for Johnson’s London mayoral re-election campaign in 2012.

4. What has the city lost out on?

Big claims have been made that Newcastle, the city, have lost out on “transformational” investment. Council chief executive Pat Ritchie offered to broker a peace deal with the Premier League to “understand if there is an opportunity to pursue a compromise” and “share the wider investment ambitions of the partners”.

No specifics have been published. It remains to be seen what the plans were.

A Newcastle City Council spokesperson said: “In high level discussions with council officials the consortium leading the bid indicated there would be significant investment as part of their ambitions for the city.”

“Development in the city is not dependent on the football club being purchased though we believe that any takeover of the club would generate economic activity and therefore be good for the city.

5. Is there a simple solution?

The hugely wealthy Reuben family could use £300m or their £16billion of assets and buy the club from Mike Ashley themselves.

Amanda Staveley’s plan for the club, including £250m extra invested over five years, was a good one, but it was the involvement of Saudi money that complicated it.

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