THE collapse of Newcastle United’s takeover talks has certainly resulted in some strange scenarios playing out. You’ve got left-wing Labour MPs writing to the Premier League to bemoan the fact that there will no longer be any Saudi Arabia-backed investment into the North-East, even though they have previously stood up in the House of Commons to berate the Government for continuing to sell arms to Saudi Arabia.

You’ve got Amnesty International praising the Premier League’s decision not to grant Amanda Staveley’s Saudi-backed consortium permission to gain control at St James’ Park, even though English football’s governing body is an unashamedly capitalist expansionist project seeking to homogenise global sporting consumption.

And you’ve got Newcastle United supporters, more than 70,000 of them at the last count, signing a petition demanding the Premier League explain its handling of the collapsed takeover attempts, and effectively exonerating the previously demonised Mike Ashley of any blame for the way things have played out. “It’s you who have dashed our dreams this time,” they are saying. “Not him.”

Will the mounting pressure on the Premier League make any difference? Unlikely, but not impossible. The Premier League’s board has always fiercely guarded its independence, and while MPs might have attempted to put pressure on the governing body as it carried out its owners and directors’ test, pointing out the areas in which Saudi Arabia already invests in this country, the Government was always quick to clarify that it would not attempt to directly interfere in the ratification process.

The Premier League does not like being told what to do, and given FIFA’s insistence that footballing governance remains free from Government interference, it would not be a surprise if senior figures at the FA were subtly reminding their counterparts at the Premier League of the need to resist any political pressure. With the start of the new season now little more than a month away, and so much uncertainty still remaining when it comes to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the Premier League board will be desperate to draw a line under Newcastle’s takeover situation in order to move on.

Whatever happens in terms of petitions and Parliamentary letters, though, it is imperative that the Premier League is not allowed to simply brush the events of the last six months under the carpet. Whatever your stance on the rights or wrongs of the proposed takeover, the Premier League’s handling of the situation has exposed chronic deficiencies in its procedures. The owners and directors’ test has been proved to be unfit for purpose, while the lack of any kind of transparency or accountability since Staveley’s team formally submitted their takeover documents has been indefensible. No matter how things play out at Newcastle in the next few months, that has to change.

For a start, the remit of the owners and directors’ test has to be widened to reflect the way in which the Premier League has changed since its creation in the early 1990s. Back then, the likeliest new owner of a top-flight club was still the local businessman from down the road. Now, foreign states, billionaire investors and global hedge funds are keen to buy in to football. The Premier League’s checks have to reflect that, but at the moment, while they explicitly prevent anyone on the sex offenders’ register from controlling one of their clubs – an understandable and needed barrier – accusations of war crimes can seemingly be ignored.

And why is there so much secrecy around the ratification process? Corporate law demands a certain amount of discretion when it comes to the final stages of a takeover procedure, but that doesn’t mean that everything surrounding the owners and directors’ test has to be so hidden.

The broad remit of the owners and directors’ test (formerly the fit and proper person’s test) is outlined in Section F of the Premier League Handbook, which is publicly available online. It flags up the disqualifying factors in running a Premier League club, the vast majority of which relate to finance or a pre-existing interest in another club.

That is it though. There is no pre-agreed process to be worked through, no requirement to provide updates at any stage of the procedure and certainly no timeframe that has to be adhered to. In its current form, it is an open-ended process that, once initiated, disappears from public view behind a wall of complete secrecy.

That is simply not good enough when you are dealing with clubs that employ hundreds if not thousands of people, are hugely important institutions within the local community and are the receptacles for the hopes and dreams of millions of supporters scattered around the globe. If the Premier League has nothing to hide, why does it continue to cling to a cloak of secrecy? Why doesn’t it have the faith in its own governance to be open and frank about what is going on?

Perhaps it is time to create an independent body that could carry out the owners and directors’ test at arm’s length from the Premier League? That would immediately silence any suggestions of a conflict of interest or of certain clubs wielding an unfair influence, an accusation that has been levelled at Liverpool and Tottenham in particular in relation to the Newcastle bid.

An independent body would be able to frame its own terms of reference, and could focus all its energies on conducting its tests. All parties involved would have a right of appeal, which again would be heard by an independent institution.

Would the Premier League agree to that? If it didn’t, it would once again feel like it had something it was desperately trying to hide.