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Newcastle Pursue Legal Action Against The Premier League

Newcastle bring in a team of well respected lawyers in dispute with Premier League over potential new owners

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Mike Ashley Court Case
Classic soft smile from big Mike
Photo credit should read Paul Davey / Barcroft Media via Getty Images / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

In an expected move following last week’s statement condemning the Premier League, Newcastle United have officially made it public of their intentions to pursue legal action against the Premier League.

Blackstone Chambers, one of the most reputable law firms in all of the UK, released a statement today revealing that they are representing Newcastle in a dispute against the Premier League over the sale of Newcastle United.

The full statement is as follows.

Shaheed Fatima QC and Nick De Marco QC are acting for Newcastle United FC and Mike Ashley (instructed by Dentons) in a dispute with the Premier League about its rejection of a takeover bid made by PCP Capital Partners, the Reuben Brothers and the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia (PIF) based on its Owners and Directors test.

The name Blackstone Chambers will sound familiar to anyone was paying attention to the Manchester City UEFA ban appeal case, as the legal team that was representing Manchester City called on the services of a lawyer from Blackstone Chambers, Lord David Pannick. Pannick proved to be instrumental in Manchester City’s win, and is regarded as one of the brightest legal minds in all of the UK.

Newcastle may not have brought in Pannick for this legal battle, but they have brought in the next best thing: two more of Blackstone’s brilliant lawyers who are experts in pretty much everything regarding this case.

The first lawyer, Nick De Marco, is a football legal powerhouse in the UK. His bio claims that he is the “go to barrister in disputes in football in particular, whether commercial or regulatory.” This is backed I by an impressive client list featuring over 30 sporting organizations and teams. The list includes governing bodies like FIFA, the Scottish Football Association and the Saudi Football Federation. Additionally, his client list includes 14 out of the 30 current Premier League teams, two recently relegated teams, and a host of Championship clubs. De Marco has also represented a number of high profile footballers including Harry Kane, Jordan Henderson,Jamie Vardy, Paul Pogba, Alexis Sanchez, Peter Beardsly, and N’Golo Kante among others. He’s a well respected member of the sport law community and was ranked as one of the top 3 Most Highly Regarded Sports Law Silks in the UK by Who’s Who Legal 2019. De Marco also serves as a director of the British Association for Sport and the Law (BASL). His most recent win was Derby County’s case against the EFL, a landmark case that is just one of many massive wins for him.

Nick De Marco

De Marco, as Mark Douglas points out has been following this takeover saga from the beginning, and is at this point an expert on the proceedings giving the information provided.

The second lawyer involved, Shaheed Fatima, is a expert on international law, as well as both public and human rights law. She is a well respected legal scholar who has a robust history of teaching at some of the top legal institutions in the world, conducting a wide variety of legal reviews, and winning a number of cases in both the private and public sector. As it pertains to this particular case she brings to the table her expertise of International Law, commercial litigation/dispute, and her experience having represented States in various cases. She additionally is an expert on policy/processes and recently was brought in by World Bank Group to conduct a legal review of its policies, procedures and practices in order to improve the existing provisions and processes for tackling, reporting and reviewing allegations of sexual harassment and sexual exploitation and abuse. If there are any holes in the Owners and Director’s Test she is bound to find them.

Theirworld Host It’s Annual International Women’s Day Breakfast
Fatima accepting Theirworld’s #WriteTheWrong award in 2019
Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images for Theirworld

Fatima also has an impressive client list that includes the UN, World Bank Group, and as many Newcastle fans have pointed out, Prince Abdul Aziz of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, another member of the Saudi Royal Family

Fatima is working on the second edition of her book International Law and Foreign Affairs in English Courts, and like De Marco has won a plethora of awards including Human Rights Lawyer of the Year Award (2007), Junior of the Year in Human Rights and Public Law (2013), and Theirworld’s #WritetheWrong Award (2019).

The aim of the case itself is unclear at the moment. It has not been revealed the type of legal action that Newcastle United are pursuing, what court they are trying to battle this in, or what grounds they are arguing.

The Shields Gazette made some hefty claims regarding the potential dispute surrounding the takeover, one of which was that everyone involved in the bid for Newcastle passed the Owners and Directors test, and the Prmeier League wanted the same tests carried out on Saudi government officials because they believed the Saudi government would be a shadow owner of the club.

Ben Jacobs, a journalist who has provided a lot of the opposing view regarding the takeover claims that this is false. He says no determinations about the owners were made prior to the withdrawal of the bid. This lines up with what Richard Masters said in July, about the actual “test” not being carried out because there was a question as to who “owns” the club.

There is likely some truth to both sides that will likely come out during this court case. We do know that there was some more movement regarding this takeover after the July 30th withdrawal of the bid, and the buying side expected a positive decision last week. This was reported by a team of journalists for the Athletic, who have had sources both from the PL and on the buying side. Last week’s bombshell statement came as a result of this decision either not being made which is what the PL are claiming, or the decision being a rejection which is what Newcastle are claiming.

It is likely that Mike Ashley and Newcastle are pursuing legal action to push the deal through. There is the possibility they are seeking compensation of some sort, but in my opinion that is unlikely. Whatever they are pursuing, more information about their motive and the case itself are likely going to appear over the course of the next few months.