Newcastle owner Mike Ashley
The Saudi-led consortium that attempted to buy Newcastle United intends to re-submit its £305million bid if the club succeeds in winning an arbitration case against the Premier League.
Newcastle finally issued a statement to confirm that “arbitration proceedings” are under way after the collapse of the bid from the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, the Reuben Brothers and Amanda Staveley’s PCP Capital Partners.
The offer was withdrawn in July when PIF grew frustrated at an impasse with the Premier League, amid concerns over the ownership structure, still not approving the proposed takeover despite it having been submitted in April.
Newcastle and the club’s owner Mike Ashley are contesting the use of the Premier League’s Owners and Directors Test and the buyers are also confident that they should have passed a test that, they argue, became impossible to deal with because of the demands placed upon them.
If Newcastle are successful and with Ashley remaining committed to selling to the consortium it is likely a new bid will be made in the hope of finally concluding a deal. Independent arbitration was offered to the buyers in the summer by the Premier League but it was declined because of concerns over the process and because they were adamant the takeover should have been approved.
In its statement Newcastle confirmed that it “has issued arbitration proceedings against the EPL” but added that it would not comment on its “substance” meaning it is unclear whether it has gone down the route offered by the Premier League for arbitration under its rule-book or taken another direction. The unprecedented dispute highlights the rift between Newcastle and the Premier League of which it is a shareholder.
The statement followed the Premier League responding to a Letter Before Action from Newcastle Consortium Supporters Ltd – a group of fans who have launched their own legal action – in which it appeared to confirm that legal proceedings involving the club were underway and will take priority.
In its statement Newcastle claims that “it appears” the Premier League “has leaked the contents of their letter to some of those commenting in the public domain” despite “the confidentiality clause in the Premier League’s rules”.
The club said it had not previously announced its action because of this although Blackstone Chambers, the law firm, confirmed that QCs Nick de Marco and Shaheed Fatima had been instructed to examine Newcastle’s legal options in September. That social media post by Blackstone Chambers was later deleted.
“The club makes no comment on the substance of the arbitration, but it can confirm that it has issued arbitration proceedings against the EPL,” Newcastle said.
It remains unclear as to what form the proceedings will take but Section X of the Premier League Handbook deals with arbitration. It states that a Form 28 has to be submitted by the “party requesting an arbitration” with the Premier League board sending “to each party particulars of those individuals who are members of the panel”.
If a case goes to arbitration it is usually heard by a three-strong panel, with each party appointing one member and a legally-qualified chairman selected. That is usually someone who the other two members agree on and, if that cannot happen, the choice is normally made by the Football Association given the Premier League is one of the parties. Alternatively both parties can decide on a single, legally qualified arbitrator.
The tribunals have the power to “determine any question of law or fact arising in the course of arbitration”, “order the rectification of a deed” and can also order compensation is paid.
With Newcastle it appears the commitment remains to agree the sale of the club although there will be continued frustration for fans given there remains no timescale to resolve the dispute.