Newcastle United takeover: Full details as NUFC and Mike Ashley launch new Premier League legal challenge

Newcastle United and Mike Ashley have launched a fresh legal challenge against the Premier League – with an anti-competition case the new line of attack.

Friday, 7th May 2021, 9:06 am
Newcastle United's English owner Mike Ashley (R) watches the English Premier League football match between Newcastle United and Brighton and Hove Albion at St James' Park in Newcastle upon Tyne, north-east England on September 20, 2020.

The Gazette can exclusively reveal the club and Ashley are looking to take the top flight to court for what they believe to be anti-competitive behaviour in their Saudi takeover decision-making process.

And in a fresh takeover twist, it can be revealed the Magpies have adopted the anti-competition case presented to them by Newcastle Consortium Supporters Limited, which was launched as a privately-financed fan venture in autumn 2020.

It is understood the Premier League were this week served with fresh case legal papers, as Ashley looks to force the top flight to wave through the PCP Consortium deal, agreed 13 months ago.

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The claim alleges the Premier League were in infringement of articles 101 and 102 of the Competition Act 1998.

This is a seperate challenge to the one which sees Nick De Marco and Shaheed Fatima's battle with Premier League representatives Bird and Bird played out

in a private arbitration, set to challenge the application of the owners' and directors' test with regards the separation of the Saudi state and the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia.

United's legal team are understood to be keen to secure disclosure of documents, private communications and correspondence from the Premier League, their key executives, lobbyists, including beIN Sports and 'some clubs', as well as anyone else potentially involved in the stalled takeover process, which saw the top flight executive board fail to make a definitive decision on the sale to PZ Newco Ltd, the front for the PIF, Reuben Brothers and PCP Capital Partners' £300m+ deal.

The lack of decision on the deal eventually saw United's majority shareholder-in-waiting pull back from the investment on July 30, 2020.

The Gazette understands PIF, with the other two consortium parties, remain at the table and simply await a green light to complete the financial formalities of the deal.

While the timeframe for a full-blown high court anti-competition battle is lengthy - these fights can take years - disclosure, as part of the process, can come much sooner.

The original NCSL case - put together and paid for by fan Keith Patterson, supported by Gordon Stein, and headed up by Robert O'Donoghue QC - was set to be a fast-tracked one, which would have seen costs capped on both sides to protect the fans, but would not have brought the kind of disclosure a full case, like the one launched by Ashley, can potentially bring.

O'Donaghue QC has worked with the club on the case, as has Patterson, since last year.

The fan group have shared all evidence and documentation with the club's legal team, with the club taking on the NCSL case lock, stock and barrel.

Having walked hand-in-hand with the football club since presenting his anti-competition case to club top brass and legal representatives, NCSL director Patterson, who has years of experience in competition actions, said: "In a competition case you are normally searching for a legal silver bullet - this case already has three or four.

"If anyone had any doubt about Mike Ashley's intentions and desire to sell this club to the consortium, it should cease today."

A legal case of this nature, if allowed to progress to court, could run up bills into the tens of millions.

Anti-competition cases carry the penalty of company directors being struck off, jailed or can carry fines of 10% of world turnover.