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Saudi-backed takeover of Newcastle rejected by the Premier League


London (AFP) – Newcastle United said on Wednesday a Saudi-backed bid to takeover the club has now been rejected by the Premier League.

The investment group, which included the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), PCP Capital Partners and billionaire brothers David and Simon Reuben, said they had withdrawn their bid for the club in July after waiting months for the English top-flight’s approval.

A £300 million ($391 million) deal to buy the side from unpopular owner Mike Ashley had been agreed in April.

However, the bid had attracted scrutiny due to the piracy of sports broadcast rights, including Premier League matches, in Saudi and the state’s human rights record.

Amanda Staveley of PCP Capital Partners said when the bid was withdrawn that the Premier League wanted the Saudi state to become a director of the club as the PIF was not deemed to be an arm of the government.

“Newcastle United can confirm that the Premier League has rejected a takeover bid made by PCP Capital Partners, the Reuben Brothers and the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia (PIF) based on its Owners and Directors test,” Newcastle said in a statement.

“This conclusion has been reached despite the club providing the Premier League with overwhelming evidence and legal opinions that PIF is independent and autonomous of the Saudi Arabian government.

“The club and its owners do not accept that Premier League chief executive Richard Masters and the Premier League have acted appropriately in relation to this matter and will be considering all relevant options available to them.”

Masters said in a letter to Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah last month that Staveley’s consortium had refused the opportunity to take the issue over the status of the PIF to independent arbitration.

Supporters have long campaigned for Ashley to sell the club as they have been disillusioned with his 13-year spell as owner, which has included two relegations from the Premier League.

“Mike Ashley understands fans’ frustrations and would like to reassure them that he has been fully committed to ensuring this takeover process reached completion as he felt it was in the best interests of the club,” added the Newcastle statement.

“Mike continues to be fully supportive to (manager) Steve Bruce, the players and all the staff and wishes them well for the upcoming season.”

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said on Wednesday it will consider adapting its criteria for potential buyers after the failed takeover.

“We are going to look again at the owners’ and directors’ test and some of the issues and specifics of it,” he told the BBC.

“It’s time to have another look at it in light of recent events.”

Newcastle begin the new Premier League season away to West Ham on Saturday.

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