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Premier League 'abused position' while rejecting Newcastle takeover, tribunal hears

Mike Ashley is claiming for damages & losses through CAT after insisting the Saudi-backed takeover was rejected by the Premier League last year

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Keith Downie reports as Newcastle owner Mike Ashley seeks damages from the Premier League over a failed Saudi-backed takeover. The Premier League wants the Anti-Competition case thrown out due to similarities with an independent arbitration case

The Premier League "abused its position" in being influenced by other football clubs while rejecting Newcastle United’s Saudi-backed takeover last summer, a tribunal has heard.

Representing Newcastle owner Mike Ashley at a Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) case, QC Daniel Jowell claimed both BeIN Sports and other top-flight clubs had lobbied the Premier League against the £300m takeover, which in turn led to an "unfair application of the rules" before the long-running saga broke down in July 2020.

Ashley - through his holding company St James' Holdings' Ltd (SJHL) and not Newcastle United - is claiming for damages through CAT following what he claims was a wrongful rejection of the Saudi-backed takeover by the Premier League last summer.

During Wednesday's hearing QC Daniel Jowell, representing SJHL, claimed Ashley's losses have been "substantial and exceed £10m".

In his evidence Mr Jowell also referenced an earlier "threat" from the Premier League to stop Newcastle from participating in top-flight football, saying it had failed to carry through with the threat.

That 'threat' is understood to relate to the issue of ownership rules had both parties failed to reach an agreement on the saga.

Mr Jowell also claimed there was no evidence the exact same deal remained on the table from the Saudi-backed consortium, who agreed to buy the club from Ashley for £300m 18 months ago. Hence the reason why Ashley was claiming for damages.

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During the hearing he criticised the Premier League, saying it got its 'decision' wrong, but added "if they came to their senses and reversed their decision tomorrow, we hope and prepare to go forward on similar terms".

Earlier in the day the Premier League appealed for the case to be thrown out, claiming it "goes over the same ground" as the overarching independent arbitration case, which has been scheduled for the first week in January 2022.

The Premier League, represented by Adam Lewis QC, said it was an "abuse of process" to start both claims simultaneously.

The Premier League also questioned why the complainant (Ashley) was represented at the hearing by both Newcastle United (in the shape of Nick De Marco QC) and St James Holdings Ltd.

The panel of three have retired to consider their verdict, with SJHL asking for the case to advance with an administrative hearing in the New Year.

Ashley claims the takeover was rejected by the Premier League last summer, while the Premier League have said all along it cannot pass the takeover through their Owners' and Directors' Test until they are given further information regarding PIF and whether there is a clear distinction between the consortium and the KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia).

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