FURIOUS Prem chiefs went to war with Newcastle owner Mike Ashley — as they accused him of LYING about the failed Saudi takeover.
Less than 48 hours before the season kicks off, League bosses issued an astonishing statement berating Ashley for deliberately misleading fans after the £300million deal foundered this summer.
And in a further sign of their anger, they insisted Ashley was fundamentally and factually wrong in trying to blame Prem chief executive Richard Masters for the collapse of the deal.
Ashley had lit the black and white touchpaper for a legal battle as he threatened to sue the League and claimed Prem bosses had pulled the plug on the takeover led by the Saudi state’s Public Investment Fund.
But in a brutal response — the most savage assault on a League member since West Ham were fined £5m over the Carlos Tevez affair in 2006 — Prem bosses insisted Newcastle had been deliberately spreading falsehoods about how the deal fell through.
Ashley claimed the Prem had officially rejected the proposal by ruling the Saudi-led consortium had failed their Owners’ and Directors’ Test.
But the Prem responded: “The Premier League was disappointed and surprised by the Newcastle statement regarding its potential takeover.
“The club’s assertion that the Premier League has rejected the takeover is incorrect.”
Ashley had pointed a finger directly at Masters, bringing a stinging retort: “It is also incorrect to suggest these decisions were taken by any individual.
“They were agreed unanimously by all Premier League Board members.”
The Saudi PIF, headed by ruler Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, was due to stump up 80 per cent of the deal price, with ten per cent each from the billionaire Reuben brothers and PCP Capital Partners, headed by Amanda Staveley.
But the bid collapsed over the Saudi state’s involvement in ‘piracy’ of the broadcasts by the League’s official Middle East partners, Qatar-based beIN Sport.
The Prem statement makes clear that the Saudis have not come back for a second attempt after announcing in July its bid was dead.
It went on: “The Board has, on a number of occasions, given its opinion about which entities it believes would have control over the club should the consortium proceed with the acquisition. That opinion is based on legal advice.
“This means the potential takeover could go to the next stage should the relevant entities provide all appropriate information.
“They would then be subject to a suitability assessment by the Board. As an alternative, the Board has repeatedly offered independent arbitration as a way forward.”
Toon fans have accused Masters of letting them and the club down over the proposed deal and also suggested that he has bent to the will of the Big Six, arguing those clubs fear the threat of a newly-enriched Newcastle.
But the statement calls Newcastle’s bluff, with Ashley now under pressure to prove his claim that the League rejected the bid rather than the Saudis pulling out, as they had themselves announced.