Newcastle takeover explained to rival clubs in move to placate concerns over Saudi ownership

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There has been disquiet among rival clubs at Newcastle's deal with Saudi - AFP
There has been disquiet among rival clubs at Newcastle's deal with Saudi - AFP

The process to approve the sale of Newcastle United was explained in detail today to the 19 other Premier League clubs by the league’s executive in an extraordinary meeting called in the wake of the sale to the Saudi Arabia-lead consortium.

The clubs were addressed by Premier League chief executive Richard Masters and chairman Gary Hoffman, following last week’s decision to approve the sale of Newcastle to a consortium that is 80 per cent funded by the Saudi state’s Public Investment Fund (PIF). The Premier League is understood to have repeated its position that it has the power to step in if it believes that the club is being directly run by the Saudi state and its leader Crown Prince Mohammad Bin-Salman, having been given assurances that will not be the case.

The meeting today was a club meeting rather than one of the regular shareholder meetings that the 20 clubs attend over the course of the year.

In addition to the assurances over the leadership of the PIF and Newcastle, the Saudi state has granted a broadcast licence to Qatar’s beIN Sport and ended years of piracy of its Premier League coverage. Given the assurances made between state and ownership the Premier League’s advice was that it had no option other than to allow the takeover to go ahead.

There has been disquiet among rival clubs at the deal with Saudi. The consortium had withdrawn its offer for Newcastle last year when it became clear that the league would not approve the PIF under its owners and directors test. The takeover was set for a competition appeals tribunal in January, involving the now former owner Mike Ashley, until the swift change in circumstances last week. After that events moved quickly, culminating in Thursday’s completion of the £305 million deal.

There has been strong criticism of Saudi’s human rights record including the state’s role in the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. Other Premier League clubs have also explored partnerships with Saudi. Manchester United signed a “strategic partnership” with Saudi’s general sports authority in October 2017. This was announced at the time as part of Bin-Salman’s Vision 2030 for the country to diversify its economy away from fossil fuels. It is understood that no advertising rights were signed as part of the deal at the time.

Exclusive: Newcastle owners impressed with Bruce's conduct

By Luke Edwards

Steve Bruce has been praised by the new owners of Newcastle United for the way he has conducted himself throughout the 18 month takeover saga and thanked for helping to make it happen by keeping the club in the Premier League for the last two years.

In a long conversation at the club’s training ground on Monday afternoon, Bruce is said to have been impressed with the way members of the consortium spoke to him and listened intently to their ambitions for the club.

Staff at the training ground were surprised that Bruce returned to take training again on Tuesday morning alongside assistant coach Graeme Jones and there is a lot of uncertainty in the air with some supporters starting to question why it is taking so long for an announcement to be made about the managerial situation.

As things stand, Bruce is on course to take charge of his 1000th game as a manager against Tottenham Hotspur at the weekend.

That seems unlikely as sources connected to the new owners were still claiming on Tuesday that he will be removed before the weekend. But with a game to prepare for, the clock is ticking and a final decision is needed in order for the team to prepare properly to face Spurs.

It seemed certain that Bruce would be sacked on Monday and he went into his first face to face meeting with key figures in the new regime anticipating that outcome. Instead he was told more conversations needed to take place and that no final decision on his future had been made.

There is a possibility things could have changed since the weekend, particularly if chairman, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, has decided he would like Bruce to continue, at least until they can find a suitable replacement.

The delay is more likely to have been caused by the fact that what was said in Monday’s meeting needs to be relayed back to Al-Rumayyan and other members of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, who are the majority stakeholders and have the final say.

The former Chelsea manager Frank Lampard has emerged this week as the favourite to replace Bruce and interestingly the current Newcastle head coach has a good relationship with the former England international and was one of the first people to get in touch when he was sacked by Chelsea last season.

Frank Lampard has emerged this week as the favourite to replace Bruce - AFP
Frank Lampard has emerged this week as the favourite to replace Bruce - AFP

It could even be that Bruce has recommended him as his successor, although that has not been confirmed by anyone involved in the process.

It would be a strange decision to keep Bruce on given the toxic atmosphere surrounding him and the fact more than 90 per cent of supporters in two separate polls in the last ten days have said they want him to be sacked.

Bruce’s continued presence in the dugout could threaten to sour the positive and celebratory mood inside St James’ Park against Spurs.

What is apparent, is that the speed with which the takeover went through last week means they did not have a replacement lined up and wanted to do their due diligence.

It is encouraging, though, that the new regime is treating Bruce with the respect and dignity he deserves. He has battled against supporter and local media animosity for most of his two seasons in charge but has a wealth of experience that can be tapped into.

Telegraph Sport had learned the two most prominent public members of the consortium, Amanda Staveley and her husband Mehrdad Ghodoussi, have stressed how grateful they were for the fact he kept Newcastle up two years without any major investment in the squad under former owner Mike Ashley.

Rather than merely hand Bruce his P45 and ask him to clear out his office it seems they genuinely wanted to talk to him about the club and their plans. The meeting lasted more than an hour.

They have also expressed their appreciation for the way he talked about the takeover, particularly how it was in the best interests of the club when news of it first emerged 18 months ago and again in an exclusive interview with Telegraph Sport following its completion last week.

Bruce said in that interview that he said he would step aside if it was in the best interests of the club and would not be bitter if that was what the new owners wanted.

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