It was a striking sight last week around St. James’ Park. Thousands of fans gathered around the stadium cheering and singing after the news that Newcastle United had been sold to Saudi Arabia’s investment fund Public Investment Fund.
Supporters dressed as Saudi sheikhs and new hopes were born in the north east of England. In one fell swoop Newcastle United became the richest club in the world.
The investment fund, which is owned by the controversial Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, has an estimated value of 367 billion euros. By comparison, the owner of Manchester City has an estimated wealth of 30 billion euros, Chelsea’s has to make do with around ten billion.
De Ligt and Haaland
In recent days, many names have surfaced as possible reinforcements for Newcastle. Philippe Coutinho, Jesse Lingard, Gareth Bale, Clément Lenglet, Matthijs de Ligt, Stefan de Vrij and even Erling Haaland. They all saw their name in the (gossip) newspapers.
Newcastle United in Saudi hands: fans celebrate at stadium
Beautiful prospects, but the reality is that The Magpies are currently penultimate in the Premier League and have yet to win a game this season. As the results have often been disappointing under the old owner, Mike Ashley in recent years.
Ashley, owner of the club since 2007, liked to sit in the front row for a dime and invested only little in the club, the player group and the training complex. Much to the frustration of many trainers and especially the supporters. The times when the club competed in the Champions League at the beginning of this century were no more than an echo from the past.
With Ashley as owner, Newcastle has once finished in the top nine teams in the Premier League, twice the club has been relegated to the Championship. The great folk club was a gray mouse in English football. Only Ashley herself benefited from it, from a business point of view.
350 million euros is said to have paid the Public Investment Fund (PIF) for the shares of the club. (Legal) approval of the Premier League initially caused a lot of haggling. Last year, no approval was given for the deal.
PIF has had to assure the Premier League that its chairman, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and thus the state of Saudi Arabia, will not have any control over Newcastle.
The day-to-day management is therefore in the hands of British businesswoman Amanda Staveley, who in 2008 assisted Sheikh Mansour as an advisor during the takeover of Manchester City by the Abu Dhabi United Group. Prince Mohammed bin Salman wants to use Newcastle United to show that Saudi Arabia can lead anywhere.
The deal has been criticized by the Premier League. Human rights organization Amnesty International previously urged not to allow the takeover. According to Amnesty, the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia is still dire and the country practices ‘sportswashing’. Sports events are organized for a lot of money to polish the image of the country.
A number of Premier League clubs are also vehemently against the takeover. Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal are said to have tried to prevent the deal. The other clubs at the highest level in England are also said to have asked the Premier League for a meeting. They wanted to know why the deal was signed, while the takeover was canceled a year earlier.
The new owners don’t care. “We are here to build long-term success. With the main goal of winning the Champions League.”
Immediately new trainer?
Trainer Steve Bruce felt the mood in the form of resignation immediately after the takeover. The much criticized manager asked the new club owners for a fair chance. “I’d like to move on. But I also have to be realistic and they may want a new manager who can carry out their new plan.”
“New owners normally want a new manager. I’ve been around long enough to understand that,” Bruce said. The names of Antonio Conte, Brendan Rodgers, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard are going around.
For now, the supporters will have to make do with players like Isaac Hayden and Ciaran Clark within the lines. We are eagerly looking forward to January 1. Then the transfer market will open again.
Former owner Ashley has left Newcastle United healthy thanks to his frugality. Without violating Financial Fair Play, the owners can spend 235 million euros.
Still, the really big names won’t want to burn their fingers on the project just yet. The club will initially focus on players with expiring contracts. Jesse Lingard (Manchester United) and Marcelo (Real Madrid) seem to be the main candidates.
A Chelsea or Manchester City makeover has become more difficult in the current era, thanks to the Financial Fair Play introduced in 2011. It will not be a challenge for Newcastle to get money, but to be able to spend it. To do this, turnover has to be boosted. In the long term, that potential is certainly there in Newcastle, but that takes time.
The ambition is there too, but for the short term fans will have to wait a little longer for the first serious prize since 1955.