WHEN Newcastle United’s proposed Saudi Arabia-led takeover collapsed earlier this year, Amanda Staveley was quick to point the finger of blame at some of the Magpies’ Premier League rivals. “The other clubs in the Premier League didn’t want it to happen,” said Staveley, with Liverpool and Tottenham subsequently having been named as the two most vehement opponents to a potentially transformative injection of Middle Eastern money on Tyneside.

At the time, her comments felt like sour grapes. The Premier League can be a Machiavellian place at times, but was it really conceivable that two members of the so-called ‘big six’ would apply pressure, or potentially even go even further and make formal requests to the board, in an attempt to prevent one of their rivals falling into cash-rich hands that might have threatened their own position as one of the big boys?

After everything that has happened this week, that question can now be answered with a fair degree of certainty. The Project Big Picture plans that were rejected at a Premier League board meeting on Wednesday were unashamedly framed as an attempt by the ‘big six’ – Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham – to entrench their financial and sporting superiority over the rest of the league.

Yes, there was the sweetener of a £250m bail-out for the EFL, something club owners in the Football League were understandably desperate to sign up to given the chronic cash-flow problems dragging clubs in the lower three divisions towards the brink of bankruptcy. But make no mistake, to the architects of Project Big Picture, most notably the respective owners of Liverpool and Manchester United, that was little more than a sugar-coated exterior to make the rest of the pill more palatable.

What really mattered to those behind the Premier League reform plans was the changes that were planned in the top-flight. The nine longest-serving Premier League teams – the ‘big six’ plus Everton, West Ham and Southampton – would be given preferential votes, meaning just six would need to agree to approve or veto any proposed change in the rules.

So, instead of the current system, whereby a majority vote of 14 is needed for any action to take place, the proposed new regulations would have meant a cabal of six clubs would have been able to dictate pretty much everything that happened in the Premier League. They would have been able to approve or reject a new TV deal. They would have had the power to alter the rules governing relegation or how many clubs were competing in the top-flight. And crucially, when it comes to Newcastle’s ownership position, they would have been able to approve or reject anyone wanting to take over a Premier League club.

In other words, the very practice Staveley had been hinting at when she railed against the Premier League’s unwillingness to sanction her PCP Capital Partners group’s attempted takeover of Newcastle would have become formally codified as part of the league’s regulations. Rather than having to subtly apply pressure to have a takeover blocked, the owners of Liverpool and Tottenham would simply have been able to raise their hands to vote against it.

Does that matter? Staveley and Mike Ashley clearly think it does, hence the latter’s willingness to appoint two leading QCs, Shaheed Fatima and Nick de Marco, to act on his and Newcastle United’s behalf as their fight with the Premier League escalates. Newcastle supporters are understandably hurt at the way in which their club has been prevented from receiving a potentially-transformative injection of funds when others, most notably Chelsea and Manchester City, have been changed out of all recognition by takeovers that were waved through.

But this is not just a biased lashing out by disgruntled parties with an axe to grind. Any supporter who cherishes a sense of sporting fair play and understands the competitiveness that makes the Premier League so compelling should be affronted by such a blatant attempt to create a closed shop.

No one is saying that there should not be a test in place to scrutinise potential new owners. There might well have been sound reasons to reject Saudi Arabian investment into Newcastle. Human rights issues, broadcasting piracy, government involvement – all might well have been justified grounds for saying no. But that is markedly different to clubs being able to reject a proposed takeover just because it threatens their own position and revenue streams.

While the Project Big Picture plan was rejected this week, it has not gone away. The Premier League has committed itself to a ‘strategic review’ on whether to reduce the number of clubs in the division, reshape the fixture list and reallocate TV revenue. It will also examine the current rules relating to takeovers and new owners.

At some stage in the future, the ‘big six’ could still get their way, so it is imperative the rest of the Premier League gets behind Newcastle to make sure that does not happen. If the last few months have taught us anything, it is that the top-flight clubs are incapable of operating the Premier League’s business fairly and with an unbiased view.

When it comes to issues of ownership, it is time to take the process of assessing and ratifying new owners out of the Premier League’s hands and pass it to either the FA or a new independent body. That way, there is no conflict of interest, no self-motivated attempts to prevent rival clubs from being able to grow, no closed shop at the top of the division.

The big boys won’t like it, but as the events of the last week have proved, there is lot about the Premier League they don’t seem too fond about. Staveley’s plans for Newcastle included.