PREM boss Richard Masters has told Newcastle fans he hopes to announce a decision on the planned £300m Saudi takeover of the club “shortly”.
But the League chief executive squirmed under a Westminster grilling about Saudi involvement in wholesale piracy of football and other sports.
SNP MP John Nicholson pushed Masters on the recent World Trade Organisation report that found the Saudi state directly responsible for the theft of the beIN Sport copyrighted feed in the Middle East by the pirate beoutQ network.
Nicholson also put Masters on the spot over the fact that One Direction singer Louis Tomlinson was refused permission to take over Doncaster Rovers while the Prem is considering allowing Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, accused of orchestrating the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, was seemingly deemed okay to run a Prem club.
We were extremely frustrated about what happened with beoutQ.
Asked if he felt that was “humiliating”, Masters replied: “You’re really asking me to comment on a confidential process and I simply can’t do it.
“I think our commitment to anti-piracy is well known.
“We were extremely frustrated about what happened with beoutQ.
“BeoutQ is now off the air and what we want to do off the back of the WTO report and the efforts that we and other sports have made is for Saudi Arabia to respond positively to the situation and to allow sports rights holders to protect their rights.
“Our owners and directors test is not a subjective one – it is an objective one.
“It allows us to disqualify potential owners – and I’m talking generally here not specifically – on a whole raft of different issues.
“We think it’s robust and it allows us to make decisions that are appropriate.
“The subjective part of a test would lead us into significant difficulty.
“What clubs want is certainty that if they can find the right owners for their football club they will be allowed through and if they’re not the right people that they won’t. It isn’t a subjective test in that respect.”
Quizzed further about the three months that the Prem board has been deliberating over the issue, Masters insisted: “There’s no timetable set as part of the rules and no particular time frame.
“These things normally take time. Some takeovers are straightforward and others aren’t.
“The process has to conclude and I would like the process to conclude shortly.”
Masters denied that the Prem had been placed under any pressure from the Government – which is keen to continue its lucrative defence business with the Saudi state – to green light the takeover.
He said: “You are suggesting we were put under pressure to go one way or the other and that has not happened. No minister has expressed a view.”
But Masters did accept the delays had caused “uncertainty” for Newcastle fans desperate to be rid of detested owner Mike Ashley.
He added: “I do appreciate that uncertainty.
“I cannot comment in terms of timing or the specifics on any particular takeover but in a perfect world takeovers would take place cleanly clearly and in a timely fashion.
“Sometimes things get complicated and obviously this particular one has.
“It’s very difficult to keep fans informed because it is an entirely confidential process that involves all sorts of due diligence and the application of the owners and directors test.
“We have always said that those particular processes would need to be entirely confidential and when they drag on sometimes there is a requirement for information.
“It’s a relatively rare occurrence. I think it’s very difficult to keep a constant dialogue with fans about what is an entirely confidential process.”