Saudi-backed consortium pulled out of £300m takeover of Newcastle last summer after Premier League failed to approve the deal; The Daily Mail claims Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman lobbied Boris Johnson to intervene
Thursday 15 April 2021 18:18, UK
The Government has denied any involvement in last year's failed takeover of Newcastle, insisting the deal "was a commercial matter for the parties concerned".
A report in The Daily Mail alleges that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman urged Prime Minster Boris Johnson to intervene after the Premier League failed to approve the takeover.
Bin Salman is the chairman of Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, which is the majority partner in the consortium that agreed to purchase the club from Mike Ashley.
The Daily Mail claims to have seen an exchange involving Government figures from June 2020 warning that Anglo-Saudi relations would be damaged unless the takeover went through.
But while the Foreign Office did hold meetings with the Premier League regarding the sale, the Government has denied any involvement in the decision-making process.
A spokesperson said: "While we welcome overseas investment, this was a commercial matter for the parties concerned and the Government was not involved at any point in the takeover talks on the sale of Newcastle United."
Ashley is understood to have believed the sale - worth around £300m - would be completed last summer after due diligence was carried out, paperwork was signed and a multi-million pound deposit had been received.
But the Premier League - which carries out its Owners and Directors' Test on any party attempting to purchase one of its clubs - had still not approved the takeover after 17 weeks of deliberations, resulting in the consortium pulling the plug on the deal.
The league's chief executive Richard Masters said it asked for "additional information, which would have been used to consider" any potential disqualification, but the consortium disagreed with their assessment and withdrew.
Masters also denied last year that any of Newcastle's fellow Premier League sides had influenced the decision by opposing the takeover.
Human rights advocates Amnesty International had asked the Premier League to block the Saudi-backed bid.
Newcastle's managing director Lee Charnley said in August 2020 that Ashley - who has been looking to sell the club for much of his 14-year ownership - remains "committed" to the deal.