Beware the tale of the Pied Piper

Published: Monday, 11 October 2021

Well well well – there you have it. The Toon has their saviour. The Pied Piper has driven out the rats. But a word of caution – beware the tale of the Pied Piper.

First thing to say, I’m delighted Newcastle fans have hope at last.  Newcastle United are a fantastic football club. I’ve never said – or thought – differently, despite the mob’s habitual lynching of me and anyone who says anything other than Rafa is the Messiah.

Most of my best PL memories involve Newcastle. ‘The Entertainers’. The Keegan years were some of the finest ever enjoyed by football fans, or any club. It remains a deep regret for me that Kevin didn’t win anything during his time. As a mate, I desperately wanted to see him get Newcastle over the line. They deserved a title. Maybe the new regime will bring one. For some reason, I doubt it – beware the cautionary tale.

Now that the ravaging mob are happy, anyone who correctly called the collapse of the original takeover is safe to speak again. It’s funny how all the abuse, assaults, insults and death threats are long forgotten. And how outraged calls for transparency suddenly disappear when the desired outcome arrives. Transparency but only when it suits. 

At beIN SPORTS, despite the takeover extracting the justice we’d called for, there is no sense of victory in the past week – nor the past four and a half years when the pirates pillared beIN, Sky Sports, the BBC, ITV, the Premier League, Wimbledon, the Six Nations and every major British content producer you can think of. Too many good people here have lost their jobs for that. Too many personal phones here have been hacked by Pegasus. Too many death threats received – and I’m not just talking about the mob on Twitter. Just pause for a moment on that last sentence.

However, the events of the past week in unlocking the takeover show the real issue at play all along, while also exposing the contradictions, hypocrisy and lies of those who are now “custodians” of the club. As someone said to me recently, if you’re responsible for the most embarrassing corporate bid in football takeover history, I’m not sure you’re fit to run a corner-shop, never mind a football club.

Let’s have a look at some of the Pied Piper’s tunes. Remember the days (sorry months) we were all assured there were no red flags (when there’s been less red flags at Pamplona)?

Then it was delayed due COVID. Then there were red flags, but they were all being sorted so don’t you worry. Then a Saudi broadcaster was launching and was the game-changer #CANS.

Then Saudi lost the WTO case, but they claimed they’d won it (then they appealed a case they said they won!). Then piracy was a problem after all; then piracy had been sorted (but remember the Premier League sent their legal case to the wrong Saudi email address – nine times – remember that?!). Then the consortium pulled out of the takeover as it was all a disgrace; then they hadn’t pulled out. I know it’s confusing but keep up!

Fast forward to the Super League breakaway – the perfect national narrative to jump on; of course it was the Big Six who blocked the takeover, didn’t you know?! Then yesterday it turns out it was the Big 19! And I read reports that the Pied Piper’s lawyers are helping some of the Big Six out of their ESL adventure – I thought they were the bad guys?!

By the way - ask Javier Tebas about who funded the Super League project. Amongst all this nonsense, there were drivelling complaints about lost investment in the North East. What stopped that - takeover or otherwise? There were crocodile tears and shameless demands for fans to get 5am buses to Parliament Square with the arbitration on a knife-edge, only for it to have been delayed to 2022. I could go on - having been privileged to have had a ring side seat all along. 

The point is, if words don’t add up, it’s usually because the truth doesn’t feature in the equation. And while the Toon fans have been urged throughout to #TakeBackControl – sadly, they’ve never been further from it. When the new non-CEO prints that slogan on the team bus, remember you heard it here first. 

I say all this because I hope that now Newcastle have belied again, I hope they realise that this was never (and never will be) about them.

Looking back, if this takeover had happened to any other club, that club would have received the same scrutiny – just for a moment consider that the red flags aren’t about Newcastle. Looking forward, more worryingly, I hope the fans also realise they’ve been played like a panpipe every step of the way – this “custodianship” will never be about them.  

The Pied Piper was initially hailed as the saviour of Hamelin by driving out the rats. However, be careful what you wish for – when music is manipulation and you lap up every false note, you may get a very different ending.