As talk of a £340m Saudi Arabian takeover was revived Newcastle became the first Premier League club to put all non-first-team staff on furlough.
Employees throughout the club received emails from the managing director, Lee Charnley, on Monday explaining that football’s enforced shutdown dictated they would need to apply to the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme, which allows staff to claim 80% of their wages, to a maximum of £2,500 per month.
This necessity embraces scouts, academy coaches and workers at the club’s foundation charity and was said to have been initiated to ensure the club’s survival at a time when its cash flow is suffering from the lack of £1m-plus gate receipts from home matches.
Although other Premier League clubs are also believed to be considering placing employees on furlough, the Championship leaders, Leeds, have pledged to keep paying the wages of all non-playing staff and casual workers after first-team players and executives agreed to take sizeable wage deferrals to preserve the full incomes of less well remunerated colleagues.
Newcastle employees received Charnley’s email as it emerged the Premier League has been formally informed that Saudi Arabia’s Pubic Investment Fund is attempting to buy out the club’s owner, Mike Ashley.
The sovereign wealth fund would assume an 80% stake with a 10% holding taken by Amanda Staveley’s Dubai-based PCP Capital and the remainder covered by Reuben Brothers, one of Britain’s wealthiest families, whose £18bn property and investment portfolio includes Newcastle racecourse.
Should the Premier League receive paperwork from Ashley stating he wants to sell Newcastle to the Saudi-led consortium it would initiate the “fit and proper persons test” applied to prospective owners and ensure that the funds were in place.
Although Newcastle have declined to comment it is understood Ashley has yet to contact the governing body. If – and it remains a big if – he does so, the test would take at least a month, possibly longer given the logistical difficulties prompted by the pandemic.
It is understood that last summer the Premier League received paperwork relating to a proposed bid by the United Arab Emirates-based Bin Zayed Group to buy Newcastle but Ashley never submitted documentation signalling an intention to sell.