Newcastle United have lost a High Court offer to remove a lawyer considering their legal battle with the Premier League after a Saudi Arabia-backed takeover of allegations he might be “biased” collapsed.
The proposed £ 340 million takeover of the club by a company ultimately owned by the Public Investment Fund (PIF) in Saudi Arabia failed last year.
In June the Premier League wrote to Newcastle saying it had tentatively decided that PIF is “controlled” by the Saudi government, which means the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would become the club’s “director”.
The letter to the club states: “PIF expressly recognizes that it falls under the definition of” director “under the rules of the Premier League, although it is not officially appointed director of the club. The Premier League agrees.
“After seeking external legal advice, the Premier League came to the preliminary conclusion that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would also become a director according to the rules.”
It added that the Premier League “was tentatively anxious to conclude that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia met both elements of the test of” control “” of Newcastle United “through its control of PIF” in what the League said according to “State-owned and” … Manages only state-owned assets “.
The letter reads: “The directors of the PIF are appointed by royal decree and its current board is composed almost entirely of the ministers of the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
The Premier League also tentatively ruled that the PIF “is expressly under the direction” of a Saudi government ministry and “its task is to serve the national interest of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”.
The decision prompted Newcastle owner Mike Ashley to take the dispute to an arbitration tribunal that included former Supreme Court President Lord Neuberger and former Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson.
The two former senior judges appointed Michael Beloff QC, a “highly respected” retired attorney, to chair the arbitral tribunal – an appointment originally accepted by Newcastle.
After Premier League attorneys announced that Mr Beloff had previously advised them on a possible change to their owners and directors’ test, Newcastle asked Mr Beloff to resign.
The club argued that Beloff’s previous work for the league “cast doubt on his impartiality” and asked the High Court to remove him from the arbitration tribunal.
At a private hearing in January, Newcastle claimed that “the fair and informed observer would, after examining the facts, conclude that there is a real possibility” that Mr Beloff was biased.
However, in a public ruling on Friday, Judge Mark Pelling told QC: “The fact that (Mr Beloff) had been directed to provide advice on behalf of the Premier League and the English Football League … not about three years prior to his appointment cause the fair and informed observer, after examining the facts, to conclude that there is a real possibility that (Mr. Beloff) is biased. “
The judge said the Premier League’s decision was “solely about whether the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would be a” director “under Premier League rules, not whether the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would be a” Director “be. It would be disqualified”.
He added, “The text of the letter makes it clear that the only problem the Premier League had resolved – and then only provisionally – was that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia met the definitions so that it could be considered a director should. “”
The judge said “the only dispute that can or will be resolved in the current arbitration is whether this conclusion is correct”.
Judge Pelling also said that Mr Beloff’s advice to the Premier League and the English Football League stood only in relation to his rules on excluding individuals from serving as director of a football club.
He said that if Mr. Beloff’s advice had “dealt with the exact problem that is occurring in this arbitration,” a “reasonable bystander” might have thought that there was a possibility of bias.
However, the judge ruled that “the fair and informed observer who took the facts into account … would have concluded that there was no real risk of bias”.
In a statement, Newcastle United said: “The club are disappointed with the court’s ruling on the matter.
“As stated at the end of the verdict, the club alleged that the judge had not addressed all of the club’s arguments.
“The association endeavors to determine its claim quickly and fairly, so that the planned takeover can take place as quickly as possible.
“However, it felt that this motion had to be made because the dispute had to be resolved through a fair trial.
“The club is considering whether to appeal or not.”