The important subtext to Amanda Staveley's Newcastle United takeover arbitration letter

The players are starting to return to Newcastle United ahead of the new season – and the club’s campaign is mapped out.

Monday, 5th July 2021, 2:37 pm
Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley.
Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley.

Steve Bruce’s squad are due to get tested for Covid-19 today ahead of the start of pre-season training later this week.

The dates are all in the club’s diary. One hugely-important date, however, is missing.

Newcastle do not yet have a date for the arbitration hearing which will decide whether last summer’s proposed £300million sale to a consortium led by Amanda Staveley and backed by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund can be resurrected.

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Mike Ashley, United’s owner, last week called for the hearing to be held in public in an explosive statement.

A club statement read: “The club has nothing to hide with respect to the arbitration and invites the EPL to agree that it should no longer be held behind closed doors. If the EPL has acted lawfully and properly, it should have no reason to be afraid of the public spotlight.

“To date, the EPL has strongly resisted any public scrutiny of its decision-making process.”

Staveley yesterday backed the club’s call for transparency in a letter to MP Tracey Crouch, who’s leading a review of football governance.

Amanda Staveley at St James's Park in 2017.

“A closely guarded lack of transparency from those responsible for the regulation of football does not generally promote good governance,” said Staveley.

“In particular, the use of arbitration to resolve disputes within football raises an effective shield against public scrutiny – and one might justifiably ask why that model is so favoured by those responsible for regulating the sport if they have nothing to hide.”

Staveley, like Ashley, believes that the Premier League’s arguments for privacy don’t stand up to scrutiny.

Then there’s the timing of the hearing. Richard Masters, the Premier League’s chief executive, pledged in January to resolve the dispute in a “timely matter”.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters.

Yet, six months later, the Gazette understands that the club doesn’t have a date for the hearing, despite a claim of a July start which emerged from a separate Court of Arbitration for Sport case brought by Newcastle.

“I would like to reiterate that it is the Premier League's desire to have the matter resolved in timely matter,” said Masters in a letter to Blaydon MP Liz Twist.

The sense among fans is that the Premier League, at every stage, has attempted to delay proceedings.

They believe, rightly or wrongly, that Masters – who spoke to the Gazette about anti-Ashley protests at United during the club’s pre-season tour of China two years ago – and Premier League chairman Gary Chairman, appointed last summer, have been kicking things into the long grass in the hope that the issue will go away,

Ashley, for his part, appears particularly bullish as the turf at St James’s Park is being readied for the new season. Certainly, Ashley seems confident in the legal case which his team, led by QC Nick De Marco, have put together ahead of the hearing.

And, importantly, Staveley and her backers aren’t going away.