For 18 months the stakes at play in the protracted, tormenting, and at times bitter Newcastle United takeover saga, have been as high as they come for disillusioned Toon Army.
The vast majority were pro the Saudi takeover all along, believing fresh investment, fresh ambition and a serious plan to rekindle the mid-90s glory days were on the table from the Amanda Staveley-led consortium.
But piracy, human rights issues and commercial blockages in the Gulf became the talk of Tyneside pubs, alongside the decline of a giant that has become a Premier League also-ran irrelevance, under cut-price owner Mike Ashley.
Most had lost hope of a compromise deal being done.
But on Wednesday the Saudis saw sense. Their court ban on £400million Premier League broadcaster beIN Sports, bizarrely renewed in the summer of 2020, as they were trying to get the takeover passed, has been dropped.
Gulf state diplomacy and a thawing of fraught political relationships 4,000 miles away in the desert and oil-rich cities, could change the course of a club in the North East of England.
Boss Bruce is well aware he could become the first casualty of a swift takeover. He expected not to return after the first lockdown when an imminent deal was being talked up.
Newcastle fans want him out, but Ashley wants new owners to make that sort of call, and he will limp on in the job until there is a resolution.
Geordies are now dreaming of victory in the long-running saga during which Premier League chief Richard Masters has been targeted for his perceived role in blocking the deal.
There has also been anger towards the top six elite clubs, who consortium sources had accused of wanting the deal blocked. Only last week Bruce said as much: “You wouldn’t want another big player on the patch would you? So it wouldn’t surprise me, no.”
In reality, since details of the takeover emerged in January 2020, it was impossible for the Premier League to approve a sale of one of their member clubs to a nation which had allowed games to be broadcast illegally, had banned their official broadcaster, and denied them access to their courts.
But sources have confirmed Saudi are quietly lifting the ban on subscribing to beIN Sports and their website. The beoutQ piracy operation will be turned off for good and the Saudis are ready to settle with the broadcaster in their $1billion arbitration case.
The Saudis have recently been removing pirate websites when informed of them by beIN Sports.
The Premier League now faces a moral, rather than a business, question.
Protesters will continue to raise the alleged Saudi state involvement in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, and Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman’s human rights record.
Video: “We need clarity on that” Steve Bruce on Newcastle United takeover (Mirror)
The PIF, who will be the official owners, also owned the two aircraft used to fly the hit squads to Turkey to kill and dismember the journalist, according to evidence heard by a Canadian court earlier this year.
But it is likely that commerce is king in the Premier League world. Nation states have swooped to rebuild other clubs like Man City (Abu Dhabi) and PSG (Qatar), while having questions marks over their records.
The Saudis want a piece of the action, and Geordies want their oil money too. Invested, as promised, in the football club and region. Opponents will call it sportswashing.
The Premier League may now come under pressure to pass the deal from commercial partners wanting to see a revived Newcastle competing at the top, and with a fresh injection of cash into the subdued transfer market.
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April 8: Mike Ashley accepts £300m bid funded by Saudi state Public Investment Fund and Premier League begin Owners’ and Directors test, which usually takes three weeks.
April 24: MPs demanded the deal be blocked because of the 3 year long theft of UK sports rights by beoutQ
May 8: La Liga President Javier Tebas urges the PL to block the takeover because of piracy, which also hit the Spaniards.
May 11: Hatice Cengiz, fiancee of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, urged the PL to block the deal saying it would be a “stain” on the competition.
May 13: Premier League rivals said to privately object to the deal.
May 15: Liberal Democrats called for the deal to be blocked. Labour did not take an official position.
May 29: The Football Association accused the Saudi state broadcaster KSA Sports of stealing FA Cup games.
June 16: WTO rule Saudis actively promoted and supported the beoutQ operation and breached international law. The Saudis claimed victory.
June 20: PIF board member Dr. Majid Al-Qasabi, wrote to UK Secretary of State for International Trade, Liz Truss MP, saying Saudi won the WTO case and that any piracy concerns would have been addressed had they not been sent to the wrong email address.
June 30: PL chief exec Richard Masters says he wants a conclusion to his ownership tests “shortly”.
July 6: Dominic Raab, Foreign Secretary, launches sanctions against Saudi individuals, several of whom worked in the office of Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman, chairman of the PIF.
July 14: In a bizarre move, Saudi Arabia permanently banned beIN Sports, meaning there’s no legal way of watching major leagues or international sports in the country.
July 30: Saudis pull out of the deal citing coronavirus.
July: Mike Ashley challenges the Premier League to arbitration
September: A hearing date is set for January 3, lasting a week when NUFC will take on the Premier League’s handling of the takeover process, and get a final resolution.
October 6: Saudi lift ban on beIN sports and pave way for swift resolution.
Inside Newcastle’s Saudi takeover: Mike Ashley gone, Steve Bruce sacked and finally hope (msn.com)