Former Newcastle United midfielder Rob Lee has exclusively told Football FanCast that it is “a complete farce” Mike Ashley could not sell the Magpies to Amanda Staveley’s Saudi Arabia-backed consortium.
The Toon hit out at the Premier League earlier in the year after it officially rejected the bid to buy Newcastle, leaving Ashley considering legal action as he attempted to resurrect any hopes of a deal.
The Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia (PIF) were blocked from purchasing Newcastle based on the Premier League’s Owners and Directors Test.
However, Ashley was adamant the consortium had presented sufficient evidence to support their offer.
Belief of a takeover was thought to remain strong in the PIF camp last month despite withdrawing their £300million offer in June when met with an impasse caused by the Premier League, who questioned the potential day-to-day running of the Magpies under the influence of the Saudi Arabia regime.
Ashley’s desire to cash-in on Newcastle to Staveley’s consortium has led the United chief to hold off on sanctioning any permanent transfers in the upcoming January window, hoping a change in stance from the ruling body will see the deal finally go through.
Lee, who made 267 Premier League appearances for the Toon, has questioned why the Premier League sought to block the sale when other deals to sell clubs have been sanctioned in the past.
He told FFC:
“I think the situation has been a complete farce. Clubs get taken over in two months, sometimes less, this has been going on for eight, nine months and no one seems to be clear as to why they weren’t allowed to buy the club,” Lee told Football FanCast.
“It’s all rumours. Typical Newcastle, really. But it’s never been made clear as to why the people couldn’t buy the club. I think that’s what’s frustrating for the Newcastle fans. They want to know.
“They see people buying clubs that maybe should have been looked into it more. I don’t understand why. The club needs to be sold; I think it’s quite clear that Mike Ashley doesn’t want to be there. He hasn’t wanted to be there for quite some time.
“He’s keeping it afloat without putting too much money in, and the fans want somebody in charge where they’re going to push the club forward.
“As has happened at Manchester City and happen to other clubs and until we get that person in charge, the club’s never going to go anywhere. They’ll survive. They always do. Well, twice they’ve gone down, but usually, they’ll survive, and he’ll put just enough money in to survive. But I think the fans want more than that.”
Ashley is believed to have received offers to sell Newcastle from alternative buyers since PIF’s bid was rejected by the Premier League, but is focused on selling to Staveley’s Saudi Arabia-backed consortium as it is seen as the most likely group to match his valuation.
A UK Government minister and Foreign Office officials have been in communication with representatives of the Saudi Arabian Government to discuss a potential sale, with Middle East and North Africa Minister James Cleverly confirming that the country’s human rights abuse issues were discussed.
Cleverly noted that the matter of selling Newcastle to PIF was a case for the Premier League and the involved parties to decide on, however, despite Labour MP for Gateshead Ian Mearns penning a written letter to Dominic Raab asking whether the Foreign Secretary had communicated with Saudi representatives.