Saudi consortium backs out of Newcastle deal blaming drawn out approval process

A view of Newcastle United logo seen prior to match against Aston Villa on June 24, 2020 (Photo by Lindsey Parnaby/Pool via Getty Images)

The Saudi Arabia-backed consortium behind a bid for Premier League club Newcastle United has pulled out of the deal.

The Premier League has been examining the proposed £300 ($390m/€331m) takeover for the last 16 weeks under its owners and directors test which assesses whether potential buyers can run a club in a suitable manner.

But it is understood Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth Public Investment Fund ran out of patience with the approval process. PIF said the Covid-19 pandemic and the current economic situation had also influenced the decision.

A statement from PIF said: “With a deep appreciation for the Newcastle community and the significance of its football club, we have come to the decision to withdraw our interest in acquiring Newcastle United Football Club.

“We do so with regret, as we were excited and fully committed to invest in the great city of Newcastle and believe we could have returned the club to the position its history, tradition and fans merit.

“Ultimately, during the unforeseeably prolonged process, the commercial agreement between the Investment Group and the club’s owners expired and our investment thesis could not be sustained.

“Particularly with no clarity as to the circumstances under which the next season will start and the new norms that will arise for matches, training and other activities.

“Time itself became an enemy of the transaction, particularly during this difficult phase marked by the many real challenges facing us all from Covid-19.”

Earlier this week the BBC revealed the Premier League was seeking clarification of the links between the Saudi state and the PIF before approving the deal.

A further complication was allegations that Saudi Arabia had failed to protect the Premier League’s intellectual property rights with regard to the activities of pirate service beoutQ.

Yesterday, the country appealed a World Trade Organiszation ruling that the league had been prevented from taking action against beoutQ in the Saudi courts.

It is also appealing against the ruling that Qatar-headquartered beIN Media was unable to secure legal counsel to enforce its IP rights in Saudi Arabia. BeIN holds rights to the Premier League in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region as part of a three-year deal covering the 2019-20 to 2021-22 seasons.