The Premier League have revealed they are reviewing their owners’ and directors’ test in the wake of criticism of their handling of the collapsed Saudi-led takeover of Newcastle.
A consortium backed by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund pulled out of a £300million deal to buy Newcastle last month, blaming the ‘unforeseeably prolonged process’ after they had waited 17 weeks to gain Premier League approval.
More than 108,000 fans then signed a petition demanding answers from the Premier League, with local politicians writing to the organisation’s chief executive Richard Masters seeking clarity.
Pleased to have received a response from @premierleague to my questions on #nufctakeover. It acknowledges importance of fans & provides some new info but not the reassurance or transparency I know fans want #NUFC https://t.co/3n0eOd1btE
And on Friday, Masters finally broke his silence on the doomed deal in a letter to Chi Onwurah, the Labour MP for Newcastle Central, in which he admitted: ‘The Premier League is reviewing its owners’ and directors’ test in the coming months to ensure it remains robust and fair to all interested stakeholders.’
Masters’ admission comes a week after Amnesty International called for the Premier League to update their test having found that human rights violations by would-be owners were not taken into consideration.
However, Masters defended the way his organisation dealt with the Saudi’s bid for Newcastle under the current rules.
And he confirmed Sportsmail’s story that the takeover reached an impasse because the buyers would not confirm whether the Saudi Arabian state would ultimately be in control of the club.
PIF – which was due to take an 80 per cent stake of Newcastle – is Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund and its chairman is Crown Price Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto head of Saudi Arabia.
But the consortium had only put forward the name of Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of the PIF, as the Saudi representative on the new-look Newcastle board – and they refused the offer of arbitration to resolve the dispute.
Masters wrote: ‘In June, the Premier League board made a clear determination as to which entities it believed would have control over the club following the proposed acquisition, in accordance with the Premier League rules.
‘Subsequently, the Premier League then asked each such person or entity to provide the Premier League with additional information, which would then have been used to consider the assessment of any possible disqualifying events.
‘In this matter, the consortium disagreed with the Premier League’s determination that one entity would fall within the criteria requiring the provision of this information.
‘The Premier League recognised this dispute and offered the consortium the ability to have the matter determined by an independent arbitral tribunal if it wished to challenge the conclusion of the board.
‘The consortium chose not to take up that offer, but nor did it procure the provision of the additional information. Later, it (or PIF specifically) voluntarily withdrew from the process.
‘This meant there was never any point where the Premier League Board was asked to make an assessment on the suitability of all members of the consortium.
‘If that additional information had been provided, the Premier League Board would have made that suitability decision accordingly.’