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UPDATE 1-Soccer-Newcastle fans demand answers after Saudi bid collapses

Thu, 30th Jul 2020 20:52

(Adds newspaper open letter)

By Simon Evans

MANCHESTER, England, July 30 (Reuters) - Newcastle United fans say they have been treated with contempt after a 300 million-pound ($392 million) takeover bid from a Saudi-backed consortium collapsed on Thursday.

The group, which included Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund PIF, PCP Capital Partners and Reuben Brothers, announced they were ending their interest in the deal which had been delayed by the Premier League's owners and directors test.

The end of the Saudi bid left the North East club still in the hands of British businessman Mike Ashley, who has long faced protests and opposition from the fans.

Many Newcastle fans had welcomed the takeover, seeing it as a chance to boost the club's fortunes through investment in new players.

But the bid had been criticised by human rights campaigners and had come up against questions about pirate broadcasts of Premier League games in Saudi Arabia.

Newcastle fans expressed frustration at the length of the Premier League's scrutiny and press criticism of the takeover.

"The supporters of Newcastle United have been treated with contempt by large parts of the football media and the Premier League during this failed takeover process," said the NUFC Supporters Trust.

"It’s been made clear that we are the least important people in a decision which affects us the most. We need answers," they added.

Chi Onwurah, Labour Member of Parliament for Newcastle Central, said she would be contacting the Premier League.

"I know that many constituents will be disappointed and frustrated by the withdrawal of the latest NUFC takeover offer. I will be writing to the Premier League to ask why they took so long and gave so little clarity to NUFC fans," she wrote on Twitter.

The city's local newspaper, The Chronicle, published an open letter to the Premier League saying the team's supporters were owed an explanation.

"A transformative but deeply controversial takeover is off. Having dreamed of something different, the city now confronts the reality of what Newcastle are: unloved, divorced from its people, deeply divided and facing the most uncertain of futures," the paper wrote.

"The Premier League tonight stands accused of blocking a once-in-a-lifetime investment in the city and football club. It is a serious accusation that demands a response," it added.

Noting that the Premier League has kept quiet, observing the confidential nature of the owners and directors test, the paper said the time had come for openness.

"But without clarity or the decency to even acknowledge the festering sores at one of your member clubs, we do not know. Left in the dark, Newcastle fans are furious tonight," The Chronicle said.

The Premier League and Newcastle United did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

($1 = 0.7649 pounds) (Reporting by Simon Evans, editing by Ed Osmond)

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