The proposed sale of Premier League side Newcastle United is "in jeopardy" after Owner Mike Ashley "sanctioned an inflammatory statement" that accused prospective buyer Amanda Staveley of "wasting his time," according to George Caulkin of the LONDON TIMES. A senior figure at St. James' Park indicated that the comments attributed to a "source close to Ashley" and quoted by Sky Sports News, which "appeared to question the seriousness" of Staveley and PCP Capital, were "reflective of the owner's views." The source said, "It is only right to let the fans know that there is no deal on the table or even under discussion with Amanda Staveley and PCP." The prospect of a deal collapsing "will be alarming to fans," given the two relegations under Ashley's stewardship and the team's 15th-place position in the EPL table. It "will also raise concerns about the future" of Manager Rafa Benítez, who is "increasingly frustrated at the club's failure to back him in successive transfer windows." According to Staveley's camp, its £250M ($347.7M) bid -- a "straight cash deal" -- was the second that PCP had put to Ashley. The first was for up to £350M ($486.7M), with conditions and based on installments. The company said that Ashley now wants £350M "with no conditions" (LONDON TIMES, 1/17
). In London, Vandevelde, Binham & Ahmed reported Staveley and Newcastle declined to comment. Ashley did not respond to requests for comment. Ashley has "repeatedly tried, and failed, to temper fans' expectations" of how much money he would be willing to spend on players. In August, he said, "Just for this season, I'd like to be mid-table, safe, back on that path of growing this football club. I know the Newcastle fans won't want to hear it" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 1/16
). In London, David Conn reported Ashley is said to have been "angered and frustrated by the persistent briefings from sources close to Staveley" since he publicly put Newcastle up for sale in mid-October. The source of funding for a Staveley takeover "has never been specified publicly by her or her representatives," but suggestions have included investors from the Middle East, east Asia and the U.S., "or even that she might buy the club with her own money" (GUARDIAN, 1/16
The battle for the National Rugby League side Canterbury Bulldogs board "has taken a bitter twist," with Chair Ray Dib denying he hired a PR agency to investigate the rival Lynne Anderson-led ticket to "build a dirt file," according to Matt Logue of the Sydney DAILY TELEGRAPH. A letter from the Anderson camp reportedly claimed Dib "sought external assistance in defeating the members of the Bulldogs' 2018 Reform Ticket." Dib on Tuesday "strenuously denied the allegations," adding, "I'm very disappointed to hear that and it's totally untrue." The Bulldogs' 2018 Reform Ticket, which includes Lynne Anderson, John Ballesty, Steve Price, Chris Anderson, Paul Dunn, John Khoury and Nick Dimas, "also called for respect to be shown to the 19 candidates running for the club's board" (DAILY TELEGRAPH, 1/17). In Sydney, Andrew Webster reported while both factions "initially promised to debate the issues respectfully," there has been "growing acrimony" as the club's Feb. 11 elections loom. The 2018 Reform Ticket released a statement which said, "We have been informed by several credible and respected sources that a PR agency has been hired to build a dirt file on members of the Bulldogs 2018 Reform ticket contesting the upcoming elections. While incredibly disappointed, we are not surprised." Members of the ticket did not elaborate on their claims (SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 1/17).