Sheffield United ownership case: Devastating ruling ensures Blades will never be the same

The words Sheffield United and High Court have always seemed like strange bedfellows.

Monday, 16th September 2019, 3:22 pm
Updated Monday, 16th September 2019, 5:29 pm

Even taking into account the Blades’ Premier League status, hearing well-spoken lawyers talk about a proudly working-class football club as if it is just a business still feels wrong.

Nevertheless, on Monday, almost 12 weeks after the case began in May, Mr Justice Fancourt readied to deliver his long-awaited judgement.

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Former United co-owners Kevin McCabe and Prince Abdullah.

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Most of the small army of lawyers who had argued the case weren’t there, and the two main protagonists were nowhere to be seen either, but the press seats were packed.

Sky News, the BBC, the Daily Mail and The Athletic were all represented, an indication of just how widely reported the case had become, with lurid revelations about the so-called ‘Bin Laden’ loan causing the trial to ‘trend’ on Twitter in its first week.

The judge was a few minutes late for his promised start of 10.15am, but more than made up for it with the incendiary nature of his ruling.

After picking their jaws up off the floor, the assembled journalists struggled to put into words just how firmly the judge had found in favour of the Saudi Prince.

Of all the options available, the judge chose the one least favourable to Mr McCabe, with control of the club being handed to the Prince for just £5m, or ‘a song’ as his lawyers had claimed during summing up in June.

He also threw out a claim of unfair prejudice the McCabe side had made and described a further accusation the Prince had been bribed as ‘fanciful’.

A statement from the McCabe family appeared just minutes after the verdict and left little doubt as to how they had taken the judgement.

‘Bitter disappointment’, ‘betrayal’ and ‘deep grievance’ were perhaps understandable words from a man who had - with tens of millions of pounds of his own money - kept the club going during its long years away from the top flight.

He must now rue the day he made the fateful decision to sell half his share of the club to a Saudi Prince he assumed was ‘minted’.

Prince Abdullah’s statement on the other hand spoke of moving forward together as a club, but with him in sole charge and his former business partner unceremoniously removed from the equation.

Thoughts immediately turned to what comes next, with an appeal viewed as inevitable, but whatever happens in the future, the case has ensured that Sheffield United Football Club will never be the same.