The one piece of news that Geordies were expecting and dreading was confirmed last week as it emerged that the Newcastle takeover bid from the Saudi Private Investment Fund (PIF) had come to a screeching halt.
All the shopping lists that had been drawn up were torn up. Dreams of landing global superstars like Gareth Bale or Kylian Mbappe have been in vain and any hope of Mauricio Pochettino being unveiled as manager is now nothing more than a distant memory.
What isn’t a distant memory, is the continued ownership of Newcastle by Mike Ashley and with universal jubilation at the prospect of his exit now swapped for collective despair, Tyneside has suddenly become a far gloomier location.
Who is to blame?
Who is to blame for the breakdown and why has the Newcastle takeover not gone ahead? Those questions are now being asked by Newcastle’s legion of supporters and the finger of blame is seemingly being pointed in the direction of the Premier League.
Has the Premier League’s silence ultimately proved deafening for the PIF? That seems to be the general consensus with suspicions that they had hoped that the longer they kept quiet, the less chance they would have to make an awkward decision.
Although Saudi investment would bring an obscene amount of riches to St James’ Park, there has been a distinct ethical question mark over the involvement of a country with such an appalling human rights record. The Saudi Government have been on a PR blitz known as ‘sportswashing’ and the purchase of Newcastle was set to be the next phase of their grand plan.
It was a plan that, through the hosting or purchase of large sporting entities, would push their human rights record to the back of everyone’s mind. Boxing and WWE had cosied up to the Saudis previously and the Magpies were soon to follow.
Could ‘sportswashing’ deflect attention away from the alleged murder of journalist Khamal Khashoggi or the World Trade Organisation concluding that Saudi Arabia has played a huge role in the piracy of Premier League? It would seem not this time.
Unfortunately, those same human rights (or perhaps that should be human wrongs) indiscretions were seemingly too much for the Premier League to bare and it seems their tactic of displaying ignorance has won through in the end.
However, making no decision at all is no moral high ground. By declining to offer a stance on whether the Newcastle takeover could be approved or not and by maintaining silence until the issue resolved itself, it volleyed the proverbial ball back into the Saudi’s court.
By creating such a political hot potato, the PIF’s role in negotiations became untenable. How could they make such a sizeable investment with the channels of communication blocked off?
Has the Premier League lacked the moral fortitude to stick its head over the parapet and publicly pass judgement on this bid? On first light you would have to say that they have and it is this burying of heads in sand that has drawn the ire of Newcastle’s supporters trust.
The NUST are now demanding that the Premier League reveal answers regarding the wall of silence over the Newcastle takeover. For each day that they refuse to offer them an explanation, the conspiracy theories in the North East will only become larger.
Was the Newcastle takeover about more than football?
The Trust has 14,000 members, of whom 97% were in favour of the takeover and were recently quoted asking for transparency over “the collapse of the purchase of Newcastle which has potentially robbed the north east of a huge opportunity”.
Their argument is that it is not just the football club which suffers as a result of this outcome but the region as a whole. With promised investment in local infrastructure mooted, it was about more than ending the tyrannical reign of Mike Ashley.
There is now a real sense of deflation within the area and with talks of boycotts on the rise once more, when the stadium doors are open again of course, it could be an incredibly difficult season for Steve Bruce and his players.
No one can deny that the former Manchester United defender did a fantastic job last season under the circumstances. With the Newcastle takeover rumours circulating, there was always a sense that Bruce was keeping the managerial hotseat warm for somebody else.
Now though, it seems that Bruce will be rewarded for his efforts by remaining as manager for the longer term and, although you could argue that his sacking by new ownership would be harsh, it would be needed to propel the club back up the table.
Instead, Newcastle’s fervent fanbase will have to contend with another campaign of functional football. Given the quality of the teams coming up from the second tier, there is no guarantee of the same template working again.
Should Bruce’s unspectacular tactical template not be successful, dreams of playing in the Champions League could quickly turn into the reality of the Championship.
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