Who Will Run Newcastle United?

So who will run Newcastle United post Takeover? Seems like a stupid question I know, but this is where reports are telling us the Premier Leagues’ Owner’s and Director’s Test is.

Various articles have come out over the past 24 hours, all taking a different spin on things, but essentially all fall down on the same problem! The Premier League need clarification as to who will have a say, and control the day to day running of Newcastle United should the deal in place between PIF (80%) Amanda Staveley (10%) and the The Reuben Brothers (10%) go through, ending 13 years of Mike Ashley at the helm.

On the face of it this seem pretty black and white judging by the documents on companies house. The representatives from PIF would be Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of PIF, and who has been named as the possible chairman post takeover. The other two names on the Saudi sides paperwork on Companies House list Bander Mogren (COO of PIF) and Vincent Cheshire. Amanda Staveley would represent herself and PCP, and Jamie Reuben, currently on the board at QPR, would represent his father’s and uncle’s 10% share. This seems pretty simple, but it doesn’t seem to be as cut and dry to the Premier League.

The consortium also submitted a 350 page document to the Premier League back in April, as the tests were getting underway, detailing the financing of the club, the management structure, and business plan for the club going forward. So where has the confusion come from?

PIRACY

Throughout this whole debacle, the test to see if a group of people are fit enough to run a club seems to have taken a backseat, to an issue that effects Newcastle, the other 19 member clubs, the Premier League and beIN Sports. That issue is the piracy of beIN streams, by the channel BeoutQ. This issue has taken the attention throughout the takeover process, albeit not strictly part of the Owners and Directors Test, but could have repercussions in the decision.

Throughout this time we have had the final report from the WTO, which stated:

“That BeoutQ is operated by individuals or entities under the jurisdiction of Saudi Arabia” and..

“The panel recommends that Saudi Arabia brings its measures into conformity with its obligations under the TRIPS agreement”.

This taken from the conclusion and actions needed part of the report, does not name any responsible party, specifically in the case of the Newcastle Takeover, does not name anyone from PIF or the Saudi Government.

Since this report has come out, the Kingdom of Saudi have formally banned beIN Sports from streaming in the country, and have fined them £2.6 million. The timing seemed strange on the outset, but looking deeper into it, the ban was first placed over TWO years ago, and had it not been for beIN appealing the decision, the ban would have been upheld then. But it does raise the question how will citizens of Saudi Arabia legally watch Premier League football going forward.

The Telegraph’s article last night that brought this ‘stalemate’ to light, states in it, “At the heart of the matter is the long-running legal dispute the Premier league has had with the Saudi Government over illegal streaming..”.

As has been reported by several outlets during this time, the Premier League have tried and failed NINE times to sort piracy in Saudi, and have been blocked, or unable to seek legal representation in the Kingdom to sort this issue, one that they look like they want to sort before a decision is made on the Takeover.

Confusion

This leads us into the confusion the Premier League seem to have at the minute. Even though there have been numerous reports to say that the Saudi Government are not responsible for the piracy, but didn’t do enough to stop it, the League seem to be pointing the finger directly at them. Although not culpable of the piracy, it can be argued that the league feel the Saudi Government didn’t do enough to help them protect their Intellectual Property (IP).

The same articles last night all had a similar running theme..The League want assurances or proof that PIF are legally separate from the Saudi Government, and by association the Government will have no say in the day-to-day running of the club. As stated earlier the structure as we as fans are lead to believe, contains no Government officials in the proposed 5 person board, it is easy to see where the Premier League may need clarification.

The de facto ruler of Saudi, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman is also the chairman of PIF. Looking at the 9 person board of PIF, 8 of those board members are involved in the Saudi Government, and one Dr Majial Abdullah Al Qasabi, who is the acting Media Minister, has been dealing with the Premier League on the issue of Piracy. So with so much Government presence on the PIF board, it is easy to see why the Premier League want assurances there will be no influence in the day-to-day running of the club.

This has lead PIF to claim on multiple occasions (according to reports) stating that they are a investment vehicle, are legally separate to the Saudi Government. This fact has been confirmed in an article by Football Law, and was backed up by Saudi and Qatari lawyers. The mission statement on PIF’s website, specifically the page detailing the board, would suggest (to me at least) that the majority board have no dealings with the companies PIF invest in, but more oversee PIF as a whole, and how the investment fund is performing…

The board is responsible for overseeing the long term strategy, investment policy and performance of PIF!

This would suggest to me that although Al Rumayyan is on the board of PIF, and is mooted to be chairman of Newcastle, it would be more a case of how has Newcastle United benefited PIF, and how much money has it bought in. It has also been reported that Yasir Al-Rumayyan essentially runs PIF, and will only update the board, in terms of this needs to be done better, or this could change, as opposed to other board members having a direct say in the running of the club.

The other issue reported by the Telegraph, was the level of Amanda Staveley’s involvement in running the club. As we all know, the majority of the money is coming from the Saudi side, with Staveley through her company PCP owning 10%. However it seems Ms Staveley will be the face and run the club day-to-day. It is reported that this fact does not make sense to the Premier League. Looking at the percentage of each owner there is an argument as to why the Premier League will need clarification.

However there is some sense in how this would work. It has long been reported that although Al-Rumayyan would be chairman, he would be so from Saudi, as he still has to run PIF and Armaco, both of which would bring in a lot more money than Newcastle, and should be the focus! Bander Mogren also reported to be on the board, is the Chief Operating Officer of PIF, a job that he could do between both countries, but you would assume the majority of his time would be spent in the Middle East. Jamie Reuben, although UK based, is only a representative of a stake holder, and will casing votes on behalf of his Father and Uncle. Leaving Amanda Staveley, a named potential owner, and UK based. Having Staveley front the club and have more control over the day-to-day running, actually makes sense, as being the only owner that is in a position to be at the club every day!

I can fully understand why the Premier League would need clarification, on whether they may be any outside influence on running the club, or whether the answers given can ease the Leagues minds that those on the ODT are the only ones that will have any say in the running of the club.

The issue seems to be that Western ways of thinking, are struggling to understand how a Middle Eastern Investment fund works, and its LEGAL relationship to that states Government. Until the Premier League get an answer around this they are happy with, or even have it spelled out for them, we are at a stalemate.

The Premier League asking for further clarification is not a bad thing! If anything it shows the willingness of the League for this deal to go through. There is a clause within the tests that allows the League to reject it, if they feel the potential buyers are being dishonest. Thinking that the Saudi Government could be running the club, and being told they won’t, could lead the Premier League to distrust the consortium ( large step I know) and reject the test. The fact they haven’t, and are asking for clarification, leads me to believe the League are doing everything to pass this test, as they did with Southampton’s buy out.

From a fan’s point of view, it is another report that we didn’t really need, but one that had to be written. We need answers, and if the only ones available are from journalist’s with sources, whether we want to believe them or not, are the only answers we are going to get at the moment. It is telling however that in each article, neither the buying side, selling side or the league would comment! at least someone is sticking to the confidentiality of the process.

You can understand the Leagues weariness with Bin Salman being chair of PIF, and the de facto Ruler of the Saudi State. The answers need to show that he has no actual influence in the day to day running of any of the investments PIF make, and therefore will have no influence in the day-to-day and decisions of the club going forward.

It is just another stepping stone closer to a final decision, and the fact they are now ironing out the ‘final’ details, acceptable answers could lead to a decision…when that is, only the Premier league, the Buyers and the Sellers will know.

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