The Newcastle takeover saga will rumble on into next year after the Premier League arbitration hearing was adjourned.
Magpies fans face months of more frustration as they wait to find out if the Saudi Arabian-backed bid will succeed.
The delay, caused by ‘issues with the disclosure of evidence’, means current owner Mike Ashley could remain at the helm for the whole of next season and is also likely to have an impact on any potential transfer budget available to manager Steve Bruce.
A joint statement from the Premier League and Newcastle read: ‘The parties attended a hearing today in the case between Newcastle United and the Premier League.
‘The main hearing of the arbitration has regrettably now been adjourned until early 2022 due to issues with the disclosure of evidence. The parties will be making no further comment at this time.’
The Premier League arbitration hearing regarding Newcastle’s £300m Saudi-backed takeover was adjourned on Monday
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman would have owned the club had the Premier League not rejected the takeover bid last year
The news comes after a group of Newcastle fans protested outside No 10 Downing Street on Friday demanding better communication as to why the prospective takeover was rejected by the Premier League.
Magpies fans held up banners saying ‘What are the Premier League hiding Boris? #transparencyforfans’ and ‘The Premier League – run by the Big Six’ next to images of all of the biggest owners in England’s top division.
Fans were also chanting ‘Newcastle, Newcastle’ outside the gates of Boris Johnson’s London office.
The second banner was a reference to the fact that five out of England’s ‘Big Six’ have seen foreign ownership approved by the Premier League in recent years, but their bid to have a Saudi-led owner was rejected.
The delay will anger Newcastle fans, who protested outside No10 Downing Street last week
Had the deal gone through it would effectively have meant that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was the owner of the club. But the Premier League’s Ownership and Directors Test failed the consortium due to its fears over links to the Saudi state.
The buying consortium insisted that the PIF was separate from the state and Bin Salman was so enraged about a rejection that he warned the Prime Minister Johnson on June 27 last year that Anglo-Saudi relations would be damaged unless the buyout was approved.
Bin Salman urged Mr Johnson to ‘correct and reconsider’ a ‘wrong’ decision by the Premier League. The PM asked senior No 10 aide Lord Eddie Lister, a Middle East expert, to take up the complaint. Lord Lister said he would ‘investigate’.
Earlier this month, consortium member Amanda Staveley sent a scathing email to the Government slamming the Premier League over the way they have handled the situation.
PM Boris Johnson was urged by Bin Salman to force the Premier League to grant the takeover
Amanda Staveley sent a tough-talking email to the Government over how football is run
‘One might justifiably ask why that model is so favoured by those responsible for regulating the sport if they have nothing to hide,’ Staveley added in her letter to former Sports Minister Tracey Crouch MP.
‘Fans surely deserve absolute transparency from the regulators across all their processes – to best ensure that they act responsibly.
‘They are performing a function like that of a government regulator – but without the same systems for accountability.
‘Now there is a chance for those involved (in the Newcastle bid) to be seen to take a robust stance – just as the government so decisively and effectively stepped into the European Super League debacle.’
The Premier League, run by Richard Masters, was criticised by Newcastle fans and chiefs
In June, an official statement from Newcastle said: ‘Gone are the days when important decisions that affect clubs and their fans should be made secretly, behind closed doors and away from the public eye.’
During the takeover negotiations, concerns were raised over Saudi Arabia’s poor human rights record. An example of these concerns was a US intelligence report earlier this year that stated Bin Salman approved and probably ordered the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018.
The Crown Prince has made some modernising changes to Saudi society, such as banning child marriage, reducing capital punishment and allowing female drivers.
However, the country’s involvement in the Yemen civil war is another point of contention.