Newcastle takeover LIVE:

NEWCASTLE fans are still nervously waiting to see if their £300m Saudi-led takeover goes ahead.

Reports suggest Saudi Arabia will bid for Premier League TV rights, but the FA are reportedly also placing the Saudis under the microscope for reported piracy of FA Cup matches.

Follow all the latest updates from the North East below…

  • TRANSFER CHAOS

    Agents and brokers across the football world think that Newcastle prospective takeover will go through – but are confused as to who to speak to about transfers.

    The Newcastle Chronicle say one high-profile agent has told friends he believes the takeover is in the offing.

    Another said advisors were continuing to speak to Newcastle as a potential destination for players.

    And a third agent spoke about the “confusion” of who they are supposed to be dealing with.

    With the takeover delayed, the club is effectively in limbo when it comes to transfer business.

  • RONDON RETURN

    Former Newcastle striker Salomon Rondon has teased fans about a possible return to St James' Park.

    Rondon impressed on loan from West Brom last season scoring 12 goals and being named the club's player of the year, before linking up with ex-Toon boss Rafa Benitez at Chinese club Dalian Yifang.

    The 30-year-old told TNT Sports: “There was a lot of talk about what happened at Newcastle with the purchase of the Saudi group.

    “There are a lot of rumours about the interest, but you have to wait. My present at the moment is in China.

    “I have worked very well with Rafa for a year and a half. But you have to wait and see what happens. I would not look badly on a return to the Premier League.”

  • PHILIPPE MYSTERY

    Dimitar Berbatov has given his view on Philippe Coutinho's transfer situation.

    “There have been a lot of Premier League clubs linked with him, Arsenal, Chelsea, Newcastle and even Manchester United, but sometimes the obvious choice isn’t always the correct one,” the Bulgarian said.

    “Everyone thought he would do great when he moved to Barcelona but it didn’t work out, sometimes you need to step back to go forwards, he will go to a good team there is no question about that, but he needs the trust of a manager to believe in him and make him the main man so that he can play calm and be free to do what he does.

    “Other people will see him linked with a move to United and they will point out his connections with Liverpool and how he would never be forgiven if he switched to Old Trafford, but honestly, United don’t need him right now.”

  • RACE ON

    Newcastle are set to host the Britain's first major sporting event since coronavirus put the UK in lockdown.

    On Monday, racecourse Gosforth Park will host the national return of horse racing after 11 barren weeks.

    The Newcastle Chronicle say a staggering 369 entried were lodged for a 10-race card where runners will be limited to 12 per charge.

    There has been no racing in the UK since a jumps fixture at Wetherby on March 17.

  • HOT HOT HOT

    Steve Bruce has warned his Newcastle players to be prepared to play in the summer heat as look to earn a top-10 finish in the Premier League.

    He told NUFC TV: “We have had an unbelievable seven or eight weeks in terms of weather.

    “That adds it's problems as well.

    “If we are going to be playing (Premier League) in July it is unheard of.

    “We will address all of that.

    “It's unprecedented so we will do the best we can and make sure we are ready for whatever is ahead.”

  • PUBS SHUT, MIKE'S BUSY

    Mike Ashley was due to meet Newcastle United Supporters' Trust (NUST) representatives over a pint in May before the UK went into lockdown, according to trust chair Alex Hurst.

    Speaking on the Guardian's Football Weekly Extra podcast Hurst was asked how much dialogue the NUST have had with Ashley during his regime.

    “Depressingly little dialogue,” he said. “Frustratingly little dialogue. Funnily enough, I might get bitten on the a*** for this one, but they have talked about us meeting Mike Ashley in May this year before coronavirus kicked off so we thought we were making some kind of progress there.

    “It was going to be an informal meeting that involved beer, because that's how Mike likes it apparently, but sadly that might never happen now.

    “It's been really tough and a lot of decisions Newcastle United seemed to have made – not just in the last 12 months but before that – seemed to have been almost deliberately antagonistic towards the fan base, which is a strange thing to do as a football club but that's where we found ourselves unfortunately.”

  • GOOD MORNING, NEWCASTLE FANS

    Newcastle's would-be buyers hope the Premier League confirming its restart on June 17 will help them complete their £300million takeover.

    Video conferences and paperwork, plus uncertainty over the Prem relaunch and controversy over the Saudi-backed consortium, all mean the buy-out has been somewhat stuttering towards a conclusion.

    But with the Prem returning, Amanda Staveley, the Reuben brothers and Co believe the takeover can be completed smoothly and quickly.

    Nonetheless, another spanner in the works over TV coverage has been thrown in the works.

    Already dogged by claims of pirating Prem games owned by Qatar's beIN Sports, the FA have now also threatened Saudi Arabian broadcasts with legal action.

    The Times say the Football Association have written to Saudi network KSA Sports, ordering them to stop playing old Newcastle FA Cup matches – and copied the Prem into the letter.

    The letter states: “It has come to our attention that KSA Sports is engaged in the unauthorised and illegal broadcast of extracts from the matches…

    “As you have neither sought nor obtained permission from the FA or any of its authorised licensees to use this content on your channels, your present use is an infringement of the FA’s rights.

    “Broadcast piracy is a significant concern…”

    Meanwhile, ex-England striker Paul Merson insists Newcastle should keep Steve Bruce.

    And if they do sack him, “pragmatic” Rafa Benitez would be a far better option than football purist Mauricio Pochettino.

    TV pundit Merse says axing Bruce would be a “big mistake” as he has done a “fantastic job”.

    And he fears former Spurs chief Pochettino could even relegate the Toon if he tried to transform them too quickly into free-flowing entertainers.

  • TOON BACK THE CLOCK

    Project Restart will boost Newcastle's would-be buyers.

    That's the hope for the Saudi-led consortium fronted by Amanda Staveley and the Reuben brothers ahead of the Premier League resumption in June 17, with Newcastle facing Sheffield United over that weekend.

    Video conferences and paperwork, plus uncertainty over the Prem relaunch, complicated the Toon takeover.

    But now the backers hope and believe they can get the buy-out back up to full speed.

  • PROJECT RESTART 'NOT PERFECT'

    SunSport columnist Karren Brady says clubs have to accept Project Restart “won't be perfect” if they want the season finished.

    The West ham vice-chairman says: “It’s a delicate balance. 

    “But if we want to finish this season, we are all going to have to accept a restart won’t be perfect.

    “There are obvious and genuine concerns about what happens to your match results if your club has a number of players testing positive for coronavirus, or in self-isolation.

    And as a result you simply cannot field your usual or strongest starting XI. Or what if other teams play a weakened first XI by choice when they have nothing to play for, or they want to give their first-team players a longer break.

    “Or they simply want to protect players from catching the virus, and that ends up skewing results? Or what if your manager tests positive, as Arsenal’s did back in March?”

  • IT'S OUR TOON FOR GLORY

    Newcastle fans are dreaming of a takeover and FA Cup double

    With the buy-out of Mike Ashley's ownership crawling closer to a conclusion,the Toon will face Manchester City in the quarter-finals over the weekend of July 18-19

  • NEW TOON STORM OVER TV RIGHTS

    Newcastle's £300million takeover hit a stumbling block with reports the FA are threatening Saudi Arabia's top TV station with legal action over the illegal showing of old Toon FA Cup ties.

    The Times say football chiefs have written to Saudi state-owned KSA Sports, accusing them of stealing FA footage from the Alan Shearer era.

    The letter – which was also copied to the Saudi government and the Premier League – claims this breaks FA's property rights.

    The development could dent the consortium's hopes of smoothly completing a Toon buy-out.

  • FA GOODNESS SAKE

    With Saudi Arabia dogged by accusations of pirating Premier League games owned by Qatar's beIN Sports, the FA have now also threatened the country with legal action.

    The Football Association have written to Saudi network KSA Sports, ordering them to stop playing old Newcastle United FA Cup matches, according to The Times.

    The letter states: “It has come to our attention that KSA Sports is engaged in the unauthorised and illegal broadcast of extracts from the matches (amongst other sports content) in the territory of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

    “As you have neither sought nor obtained permission from the FA or any of its authorised licensees to use this content on your channels, your present use is an infringement of the FA’s rights.

    “Broadcast piracy is a significant concern for all rights holders and content providers and failure to promptly take affirmative steps will cause significant financial and reputational harm to us.”

    Copied into the letter is Dr Majid Al-Qasabi, Saudi Arabia’s acting minister of media who also sits on the board of the PIF, the country’s sovereign wealth fund.

  • BENITEZ BETTER OPTION THAN POCH

    Pundit Paul Merson explained why he thinks Steve Bruce should stay Toon manager – with a return for Rafa Benitezthe next best option.

    He told the Star: “Newcastle's new owners would be making a mistake if they get rid of Steve Bruce and get Mauricio Pochettino.

    “If they think it’s suddenly going to be Kevin Keegan football all over again they will end up getting relegated.

    “It’s all very well saying the new owners will throw money at it. But how much? And who could you attract to transform that team overnight? It won’t be easy.

    “At Newcastle you need to be realistic sometimes. You need to play with ten behind the ball sometimes, even at home.

    “If they’re really going to replace Steve Bruce they need someone like Rafa Benitez who’s a bit more pragmatic. Not Pochettino.”

  • KEEP BRUCE, MAUR WOULD BE TOO MUCH

    Newcastle should keep Steve Bruce as boss – but if they do sack him “pragmatic” Rafa Benitez would be a far better option than football purist Mauricio Pochettino.

    So says ex-England striker Paul Merson as the Toon edge closer to their £300million, Saudi-led takeover.

    Former Arsenal star Merse says axing Bruce would be a “big mistake” as he has done a “fantastic job”.

    And he fears ex-Spurs chief chief Pochettino might try to transform Newcastle too quickly into free-flowing entertainers.

  • TOON 'OWE' ASHLEY £111m

    Newcastle's 2019 accounts show current owner that Mike Ashley gave another interest-free loan and provided his family with £109,000 worth of matchday hospitality.

    The figures, revealed by the ChronicleLive, suggestAshley is “owed” £111million – £33m less than the previous year.

    They also reveal that United spent more than £1million on sports goods from Frasers Group (formerly Sports Direct), of which Ashley Ashley is the majority stakeholder.

  • TOON STONES CAN COME ALIVE

    Manchester City's England centre-back John Stones has been backed to make a “fresh start” at Newcastle.

    After a superb second season at Manchester City, following a bumpy bedding-in period under Pep Guardiola, the 26-year-old struggled for form this term before the season was interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

    That could be down to the departure of Vincent Kompany and injuries to Aymeric Laporte.

    But former Sunderland striker Kevin Phillips reckons Stones should jump at the chance.

    He told Football Insider: “I think John Stones should get out of Manchester City.

    I like him, he is a good player and a fresh start somewhere else would do him the world of good.

    “If he could jump on that train at Newcastle – who knows where it could be heading.”

  • FINANCIAL RESULTS

    Newcastle have unveiled their financial results for the year.

    Turnover is down around £2million from £178m in 2018 to £176m in 2019.

    The Magpies have also managed to pay off some of their debts, with levels of borrowing down from £144m to £111m.

    Cash reserves are also down from £33m to 14m.

  • MAKING A STAND

    The Premier League have confirmed they WILL use neutral venues on police advice, as we reported earlier.

    A statement reads: “The Premier League’s ambition is to complete all of our remaining fixtures this season home and away, where possible.

    “We are working with our clubs to ensure all risks are assessed and minimised, while co-operating with the police at a local and national level.

    “Discussions with the National Police Chiefs’ Council and UK Football Policing Unit have been positive and are continuing.

    “We are prepared for all outcomes and have a neutral venue contingency.”

  • ROSE RETURN

    Danny Rose is back at training with Newcastle at Darsley Park.

    The England left-back, on loan from Tottenham, has been uneasy about returning to training, as he expressed in a podcast.

    Rose said earlier this month: “I’m dying to get back to football but just with the things that are happening right now, people are going through this coronavirus pandemic a lot worse than me, I don't want to be complaining about everything.

    “Just off the fact that people are suggesting we should go back to football like we're guinea pigs or lab rats. We're going to experiment this phase and see if it works or not.

  • WHEL'S IN MOTION

    Noel Whelan reckons the Newcastle takeover is a done deal.

    The former Leeds, Coventry and Middlesbrough forward told Football Insider: “I don’t think there’s going to be anything that’s going to stop this, I really don’t – otherwise I don’t think Mike Ashley would have entertained it.

    “Everyone’s going to have done their homework, their due diligence on the takeover.

    “They wouldn’t have put anything in place if they didn’t think it was safe or there were going to be stumbling blocks.

    “I think it’s a matter of time really, the quicker the better. Now the Premier League’s going to get back underway, the takeover deal can get done and Newcastle can start looking forward to a very bright and exciting future under new owners.”

  • CHEER FOR FANS

    Premier League chief exec Richard Masters is positive that there will be a return of fans to grounds in ‘phases’.

    He said: “No one knows when matches will move away from the behind-closed-doors model and it is right to have contingency plans in place.

    “But there is optimism at the Premier League and at clubs that we will see fans back in the stadiums next season and it may happen on a phased basis.

    “Hopefully it will be a huge morale boost and that is what we've been working towards.

    “We've got some incredible fans in this country and we all know the Premier League as we know and love it won't be fully back until we have fans back through the turnstiles.

    “Getting it back on our TV screens for people to enjoy will hopefully give the whole country a boost.”

  • ‘HEN PECKED

    Hotshot Lille striker Victor Osimhen, 21, is among the strikers being linked with Newcastle – according to the player’s agent.

    He said: “I can confidently tell you that the only club that wants Victor 100 per cent right now is Napoli.

    “But the final decision on whether he wants to join them lies with him.

    “Also, Newcastle are in the race just like Tottenham.

    “But it’s just interest alone. No real sign of commitment from them.

    “I think with the pressure from different clubs in Europe, I doubt if he will stay with Lille in the coming season.”

  • CUP LATEST

    The FA Cup semi-finals will take place over the weekend of 18-19 July, according to the FA.

    The schedule for the Emirates FA Cup quarter-finals, which was originally drawn on March 4, are due to take place on June 27 and 28:

    • Leicester City v Chelsea
    • Newcastle United v Manchester City
    • Sheffield United v Arsenal
    • Norwich City v Manchester United

    NEUTRAL STANCE

    Six Premier League games will be played at neutral venues due to a request from the police.

    Liverpool's clash against Everton – which could see Jurgen Klopp's side secure the title – is one of the matches included.

    Deputy Chief Constable Mark Roberts said: “Our discussions with the Premier League throughout this process have been positive, with a shared focus on the priority of public health.

    “As such we have reached a consensus that balances the needs of football, while also minimising the demand on policing.

    “The majority of remaining matches will be played, at home and away as scheduled, with a small number of fixtures played at neutral venues.”

    IT'S CONFIDENTIAL

    Newcastle’s buyers are hoping the Premier League re-start can give them a clear path for a takeover.

    The takeover, funded by the Reuben brothers and the Saudi Arabia Public Investment fund is being fronted by Amanda Staveley.

    But a different consortium have hit a snag before, when trying to buy out Mike Ashley’s ownership of the club last year.

    The Premier League are reviewing the takeover, which is controversial because of the Saudi Arabia-backed murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018.

    Richard Masters told the BBC: “I can’t say anything about it. It’s an entirely confidential process and I can’t say anything to prejudice that process.”

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