AT the start of this month, Newcastle United issued an emotive public statement calling for much greater transparency in football.

“Gone are the days when important decisions that affect clubs and their fans should be made secretly, behind closed doors and away from the public eye,” said the statement, presumably sanctioned by owner Mike Ashley. “The club asks that MPs, the government, the media and the general public call on the EPL to finally accept public scrutiny of its decision-making process.”

Well, after this week’s events relating to the ongoing arbitration case between Newcastle and the Premier League, the time for transparency has certainly arrived. Admittedly, it would be helpful if the Premier League was to throw off its cloak of secrecy and explicitly outline the decision-making process that ultimately led to the collapse of Amanda Staveley’s Saudi Arabian-backed takeover bid last summer.

More pertinently, though, with the start of the new Premier League season just three weeks away, the time has arrived for Ashley and Lee Charnley to finally break down their own wall of silence and be honest with Newcastle supporters about their plans for the club.

No more rabble-rousing around a takeover cause that is clearly not going to come to fruition for the foreseeable future, for all that some supporters might cling to the prospect of Newcastle’s case at the Competition Appeal Tribunal breaking an impasse that has now lasted for more than a year. No more empty words about openness and accountability when Ashley’s 14-year reign in charge of the Magpies has been the complete antithesis of either of those terms. No more hiding behind a supposed Premier League conspiracy as an excuse for the chronic lack of investment that has turned Newcastle from a vibrant top-flight club into an empty husk.

We all know that Ashley wants to sell. Fine. You will struggle to find a supporter who wants him to remain in charge a second longer than is necessary. But having spent the last 12 months pinning his hopes on the resurrection of a deal that was once again kicked into the long grass by this week’s decision to postpone arbitration until the start of 2022 at the earliest, it is now imperative that the Sports Direct boss moves on.

Either, he has to pursue an alternative avenue for a sale, something that presumably does not exist given the obsessive focus on Staveley’s consortium for more than a year, or he has to accept his responsibilities as the current owner of Newcastle and come up with a viable plan for the levels of investment that are required to enable Steve Bruce to take the Magpies forward next season. Then, he has to communicate that plan to the supporters he expects to blindly flock through the turnstiles at St James’ Park.

One of the more fascinating elements of Newcastle’s takeover saga has been the way in which Ashley and his associates have cleverly identified a cause that has shifted focus and anger away from his dreadful management of the club.

The Premier League have been cast as the villains, along with Bruce, whose unpopularity has made him an easy target for abuse and vitriol. Blame the puppet, ignore the puppet master in the shadows pulling the strings.

It is not the Premier League’s fault that Newcastle are still to make a single signing this summer, nor is it Bruce’s. That comes down to Ashley and Charnley, who once again appear to be prepared to do the absolute minimum in order to keep the club ticking over while they rail against the unfairness of the Premier League’s rules or the machinations of the big six.

Clearly, the bigger picture is important. But with Newcastle preparing to host West Ham in three weeks’ time, the need for short-term action is pressing. Kristoffer Ajer joined Brentford earlier this week because the newly-promoted Bees were willing to meet Celtic’s asking price when Newcastle were not. The Joe Willock saga rumbles on and on because rather than forcing Arsenal’s hand by tabling an offer that would lead to a permanent transfer, Newcastle continue to discuss possible loan deals with a commitment to buy somewhere way down the line. While the vast majority of their rivals attempt to remain competitive despite the financial difficulties caused by the pandemic, Newcastle stick rigidly to a total transfer budget that is reported to be somewhere around £10m.

Ashley’s reluctance to commit more of his own money to the club is understandable given his desire to get out, although it conveniently ignores the considerable benefits he has accrued during his Tyneside tenure. However, it shouldn’t stop him enabling Newcastle to borrow money for transfer dealings in the same way that most other top-flight clubs finance their deals. Similarly, it doesn’t mean he has to stick to his policy of paying for deals in one installment or continue to prioritise the purchase of cheap, unproven youngsters, approaches that severely limit Newcastle’s options in the transfer market.

It is entirely feasible for Ashley to continue with his attempts to sell the club while simultaneously investing sufficient capital for Newcastle to punch what should be their weight when it comes to buying players. Similarly, just because he is looking to sell up, it doesn’t mean Ashley has to continue to ignore the infrastructural improvements that are required at the academy, training ground and stadium. A lick of paint at St James’ Park would be a start.

For far too long, Ashley has used the takeover situation as a convenient excuse. That has to change. Having called for greater transparency in football, it is time for Newcastle’s owner to live up to his words. Come clean about what happens next. Then make sure it actually occurs.