Sportsmail gets the inside view from Matthew Ketchell, a football writer, contributor to the True Faith fanzine and die-hard Newcastle fan who has been a season ticket holder since the 1990s.
I’ve supported Newcastle for 26 years, Mike Ashley has been in charge for half of that. It feels longer.
We want Mike to go. An ambitious consortium with big plans and an even bigger bank balance want to buy us and Mike wants to sell. Mike NEEDS to sell. The high street is in tatters, his net worth has plummeted – Newcastle need to come off the books.
But now the Saudi-led Public Investment Fund have withdrawn its bid to buy us and we’re facing more Mike, more relegations and more empty stadiums.
When you reach week 16 of a 4-6 week owners and directors’ test you get a sense that something isn’t right. This is a test designed to protect clubs and its supporters. Instead, the Premier League have used it to protect Qatar.
Human rights abuses is not the leading reason this takeover isn’t happening. Virtue signallers haven’t derailed this. The failed bid stems from not being able to legally watch Premier League football in Saudi Arabia and issues of television piracy claims.
The Premier League have had four months to block the bid on the basis of TV piracy, so why haven’t they? Qatar’s BeIN Sports and the Premier League are a worrying alliance, more concerning is the power the Qatari-state seems to have over the English game. The Premier League have also faced pressure from rival clubs concerned by the prospect of Newcastle jostling for space in the four-berth Champions League chariot.
The league’s Chief Executive Richard Masters buried his head in the sand in the hope this massive Saudi headache would pass without having to swallow an unpalatable medicine.
Playing football in empty stadiums has been a window into what football is without fans. But as ever fans are the afterthought here, we’re left to pick up the pieces after yet another failed bid.
We were told we were going to be the richest club in the world, websites mocked up pictures of Kylian Mbappe in black and white. Imagine winning the lottery, waiting 16 weeks for the windfall to land in your current account, only to be told there has been an administrative error.
Pre-covid, the Newcastle West End Food Bank made matchday collections outside St James’ Park. This time last year they were distributing 8-9 tonnes of food a month; that has increased to between 21-26 tonnes as people lose jobs and self-isolate. Jamie Reuben, who would have been installed as a Director of the new board, representing his family’s 10 per cent stake in the club, has been quietly contributing to the foodbank since the outbreak of Covid. That charity has potentially lost a life-changing partner.
So, what does the future look like for NUFC? I think the Sunderland blueprint is what we’re helplessly following. Infrastructure-wise, mould will continue to climb up the Gallowgate End walls, our training ground will remain at the level of a municipal squash club and the strategy will be mapped out by Managing Director Lee Charnley. Charnley, a former admin man who used to hand out team sheets at Newcastle reserve games and is in the same salary bracket as Steve Bruce’s backroom staff. Mike Ashley’s £300,000-a-year coat rack.
I don’t want to think about another season of football in these circumstances. The last 12 months have been brutal. Getting hammered 5-0 by Man City with 26 per cent possession having had one shot on target while Steve McManaman heaps praise on Steve Bruce from the commentary box? No thanks.
Of course, this being Newcastle United, as one takeover fails another arrives. You can set your watch to them. Henry Mauiss is the latest tycoon looking to boost his profile by kicking the club’s tyres. If you’re going to do that, do it quietly, Henry. We don’t need the running commentary, I don’t want to be awake during the operation.
I’ll save the last thought for Amanda Staveley and PIF. Why did they give up? Something doesn’t feel right on their side of the deal either. This consortium supposedly have a bottomless pit of money, why haven’t they lawyered up and refused to take no for an answer? Their statement pointed to a lack of ‘clarity as to the circumstances under which the next season will start and the new norms that will arise for matches, training and other activities’ but that shouldn’t put them off.
Their bid has been compared to Man City’s takeover in 2008. The City Group just didn’t take no for an answer, and PIF should match that attitude if they really want to buy Newcastle.
‘We will not give up,’ Staveley told The Athletic. I don’t find that helpful and by pulling out of the deal I feel like they have given up. She’s had two attempts to buy us and given us months of false hope. I wish both attempts had been kept quiet.
‘I hope the fans realise what’s happened,’ says Staveley. ‘It’s up to the fans now. Because if the fans want this back on then they’re going to have to go to the Premier League and say this isn’t fair.’
Don’t give up, Amanda, buy our club and we will believe you really care about us.