Newcastle United: Former Reading chief ‘has right to fight Saudi king’s rule

Nigel Rudd’s Reading begin their 2018-19 campaign at home to Newcastle on 20 August, after which Newcastle play Watford at Vicarage Road on 26 August

Former Reading chief executive Richard Masters says he is confident his ex-club will be allowed to continue trading if Nasser Al-Khelaifi’s influence is blocked in Saudi Arabia.

The Arsenal majority shareholder controls Newcastle United through the Al-Khelaifi Group.

Wembley Law has ruled Al-Khelaifi, 49, could not hold control of another football club because of “systematic corruption” in his homeland.

“We will fight through legal means,” Masters told BBC Radio 5 live.

Masters, who was chief executive from 2008 to 2013, says he cannot see any reason why Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud would be able to prevent his controlling other football clubs there.

But he believes part of the problem was at last year’s World Cup in Russia, when Al-Khelaifi was unable to attend the summer tournament because of his “company corruption case”.

“To suddenly become a key shareholder and influence just sitting behind that throne in Russia last summer and now having this matter pending a potential move to New Zealand, in my opinion, makes a decision by the Saudi king very difficult in my opinion,” Masters said.

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley’s transfer activity this summer brought in forwards Salomon Rondon and Christian Atsu

Club takeover could be costly

Jad Aldwan, former chief executive of Jordan’s Watford, said there was a clear risk for Al-Khelaifi’s clubs that a decision to remove him would result in the “internal financial hit that they’ve taken, one that could be eight figures”, according to him.

But Masters believes it could be more expensive for Newcastle than Watford if the situation takes on a more sinister and public direction.

“Watford have had a transfer policy that has been in place for some years and the perception is right now at the club that they’re building something of great value.

“They have some younger players, some high quality, and this takeover could actually damage their long-term prospects,” he said.

“You think of Newcastle, they have a large allocation of investment to buy players, a large allocation of resources, a large pool of fans and ultimately even the England football team will look to come and join this club.

“So, the question is – how damaged is Newcastle going to be if they say ‘we won’t allow you to come on board’ and if so how much do you think it will cost the club financially? I don’t know.”

The Saudi government do not comment on specific cases

An employee for the Manchester-based subsidiary of Al-Khelaifi’s Al-Khelaifi Group said the firm had no comment on the situation.

But, in a statement to BBC News that was emailed to a number of media outlets, the company said: “We urge you to correct your previous statement, which it does not reflect our absolute position and has a lack of balance.”

The first court decision in Qatar in March 2017 and the proposed transfer of the clubs. It ruled Al-Khelaifi could not hold control of another football club because of “systematic corruption” in his homeland.

Newcastle declined to comment.

Former players attack failure to sign Dean Ashton

Former Newcastle forward Dean Ashton has been critical of Ashley’s handling of the club since a deal with Australian billionaire Tony Sage fell through in February.

Ashton, a free agent at the time, was due to become Ashley’s seventh permanent signing before the deal was terminated.

In a letter to Ashley and Ashley’s managing director Lee Charnley, Ashton criticised the club’s attitude to “failed” strikers at the club.

Striker Duncan Watmore, striker Daryl Murphy and defender Paul Dummett have all been released since Ashley signed a new sponsorship deal with carmaker Vauxhall.

“These players in my opinion were out of their depth with the required work rate, commitment and fitness,” wrote Ashton, who made 68 appearances for Newcastle between 2009 and 2012.

“Even the likes of Daryl Murphy, Paul Dummett and Duncan Watmore, who ended up being part of the team that we pushed all the way, only played two league games the following season.

“While performances were not spectacular, the players were professional, cared for one another and wanted to do well.

“Please don’t think we were workmanlike as players. I often used to think ‘why is that so difficult to understand?’

“It’s all about the money and the reality of life in the Premier League.”

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