The ever reliable George Caulkin wrote a fascinating piece for The Athletic earlier this week, which outlines the immediate plans of our potential new owners – and it’s hard to not get excited reading them!
Caulkin has maintained a close relationship with Amanda Staveley since he interviewed her in the aftermath of her unsuccessful attempt to buy us back in the winter of the 2017-18 season. He’s always maintained he saw her 3 official bids in person at her home in London, after Staveley felt the need to go public after she was the subject of some vicious defamation from Ashley and his camp.
Nearly two and a half years it seems Staveley is finally about to get the keys to St James Park, subject to the Premier League owners tests, and the following is a direct translation of what we can expect next:
- A ‘mission statement’ is being worked on, which would be released either when the Premier League gives its approval or earlier (in the unlikely event that Ashley releases a statement of his own).
- This would set out the new ownership’s aspirations. Original plans had featured the block-booking of specific hotels in the city ahead of a media blitz but, for obvious reasons, that has now been shelved.
- Newcastle’s non-playing staff would be taken off the government’s furlough scheme, mirroring U-turns already made by Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur. Doing the right thing will be about more than words.
- Lee Charnley, the managing director, will be asked to remain in his post for the time being, to coordinate the handover and maintain dialogue with the Premier League and other authorities over the coronavirus. In these exceptional circumstances, some form of continuity, however temporary, will be vital.
- Steve Bruce would stay in charge of the first team. There has been no contact with the head coach, either officially or otherwise, but with nine games still to play this season (theoretically, at least), there is no need to make a decision on his future now.
- For all the speculation about the hiring of a more-illustrious manager — Rafa Benitez was an integral part of Staveley’s previous bid, but is now tied to a £12 million-a-season contract with Dalian Professional, the Chinese club — nobody is lined up. There is appreciation for the job Bruce has done and the way he has handled difficult circumstances, although whether he is the man to take Newcastle forward is another matter. In any case, potential candidates may become available in the summer. There is no rush.
- Informal overtures have already been made to some supporters, former players and other key figures in the city. Staveley did this last time. After 13 years of limited communication between Ashley, the club and the wider community, this is another indication of change. There is a desire to make the club better and more in tune with its surroundings and history. That dialogue is taking place.
- A gesture in support of the local NHS hospital is being considered. What form this would take is still to be decided.
- A root and branch reform of Newcastle’s operation will take place. As part of the process of buying the club, Staveley’s group have conducted due diligence and studied the financial situation. In that sense, there should be no surprises. They do lack knowledge on how the club has made decisions and who takes on certain responsibilities. Do staff need to be supported? Will some need to be moved or replaced? What about contract negotiations? Notes and employment files will be released on takeover.
- The same applies to other staffing decisions. They cannot make offers to people already in jobs or with contract notices to see out at other clubs until they are in situ.
- They have already received contact from player agents. This is not surprising. But, again, too much is unknown, not least when the transfer window might reopen and what the market will look like when it does. Will financial fair play rules be relaxed? Will wages and fees be depressed? Two years ago, when she admitted to having financial backing from sovereign wealth funds, Staveley planned to invest £100 million on players over the first two transfer windows and the same again on infrastructure. But Saudi involvement and COVID-19 have changed the environment.
- Remote meetings are being held regularly. This a long-term investment and there is an understanding that Newcastle will not be able to go toe-to-toe with Liverpool and Manchester City from the outset. What they can do is work quickly and work smartly, although how they do that efficiently with their complex ownership structure is not straightforward. Streamlining their decision-making is being discussed.
If you’re a subscriber of The Athletic and would like to read the piece in full, please do see the link above – you won’t be disappointed!
After all that, this seemingly imminent takeover can’t come quick enough.
Exciting times may finally await just around the corner..