Here’s what you need to know about the Newcastle United takeover
You may have heard a little something about this recently…
You may have heard a little something about the takeover of Newcastle United over the last few days. No big deal – the club has just become one of (if not the) richest football clubs in the world.
But why all the hysteria? Why is Mike Ashley so hated? What does this mean for the future of Newcastle United and, indeed, the city as a whole? And who’s the superwoman pulling all the strings? Here’s what you need to know…
What has happened?
In a nutshell, Newcastle United has been bought for £305 million by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF). The takeover has brought to an end Mike Ashley’s unpopular 14-year spell as owner of the club. PIF now own 80% of Newcastle United, while Amanda Staveley’s PCP Capital Partners and the Reuben Brothers own 10% each.
Why is it such big news?
For one, because it is a deal that has taken so long to close. A takeover agreement was initially agreed between the PIF and Mike Ashley back in April 2020, but the buyers walked away four months later when the Premier League offered arbitration to settle a disagreement on who would control the club. It’s thought that a resolution came after Saudi Arabia settled an alleged piracy dispute with Qatar-based broadcaster beIN Sports, which own rights to show Premier League matches in the Middle East.
But perhaps more significantly, the Magpies’ new owners are reportedly worth £320 billion and have assets of £250 billion. This now makes Newcastle United one of the richest football clubs in the world.
Who are the new owners?
The PIF is the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia and is among the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world. But while the PIF’s chairman is Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman, Premier League chiefs have insisted on guarantees that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will not be running Newcastle United.
Instead, the PIF’s governor, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, has been named the club’s non-executive chairman. Amanda Staveley and Jamie Reuben will be on the board of directors, with Staveley’s company, PCP Capital Partners, taking over the day-to-day management of Newcastle United.
Who is Amanda Staveley?
Amanda Staveley is the businesswoman who has spearheaded this takeover. Originally from Ripon in North Yorkshire, 48-year-old Staveley has an illustrious reputation as a deal broker and financier both in the UK and in the Middle East.
The founder of PCP Capital Partners, Amanda and her company were key players in the 2008 takeover of Manchester City – a deal that changed the face of the Premier League forever.
Staveley is expected to lead on running Newcastle United on a day-to-day basis.
Image credit: The Chronicle
Why all the controversy?
Saudi Arabia has been accused of human rights abuses and women’s rights campaigners have been imprisoned, despite some reform under current ruler Mohammed bin Salman, (such as an end to the ban on women driving).
However, homosexuality is still outlawed in the country and the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association says the death penalty is the legally prescribed punishment for same-sex sexual acts in Saudi Arabia.
Western intelligence agencies also believe that the crown prince ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 – a claim which bin Salman denies.
The Premier League has only approved the takeover after receiving ‘legally binding assurances’ that the Saudi state would not control the club. The PIF is seen as separate to the state.
Why was Mike Ashley so unpopular?
Sports Direct CEO Mike Ashley bought Newcastle for £134 million in May 2007.
He first put the club up for sale in September 2008, amid a series of protests from fans following the resignation of popular manager (King) Kevin Keegan.
Newcastle were relegated from the Premier League that season – the first time they had dropped from the top flight of English football in 20 years. They returned to the Premier League the following season, but were relegated again in 2016.
Despite once again securing a return to the Premier League the following season, any ambitions of doing anything more than simply ‘surviving’ in the top flight were non-existent.
Currently, Newcastle United are 19th in the league (out of 20) and are without a win after seven games this season.
Top 3 unforgivables:
- Trying to rename St James’ Park (which has been the home of Newcastle United since the club formed in 1892) to ‘The Sports Direct Arena’.
- Not extending the contract of the Champion League-winning manager and locally-beloved Rafa Benitez.
- Releasing fan favourite Jonas Gutierrez after his goal ensured Newcastle stayed in the Premier League, because he hadn’t been selected for the first team enough that season – due to undergoing chemotherapy for testicular cancer.
What happens now?
It’ll be softly, softly catchee trophies. Newcastle United’s new owners have said they are aiming to make the club as big as Manchester City and Paris St-Germain. However, ‘patience’ seems to be the keyword of the moment. Success won’t come overnight.
Amanda Staveley has said that the new board is ready to make a ‘long-term investment’ to ensure Newcastle are ‘regularly competing for major trophies’. So yes, this will include some big signings for the first team in the next few years – hopefully starting in January’s transfer window – but it will also include a rejuvenation of the club’s training facilities and academy and a reshuffling of the backroom staff.
In the shorter term, what many Toon fans are desperate to see before the Magpies’ next game (on Sunday 17th October) is that current manager Steve Bruce has been sacked.
Will we see footballing superstars in Newcastle any time soon?
Ok, so it’s unlikely we’ll see the likes of Kylian Mbappé on Tyneside in the next few years, despite the dreams of the black and white army.
However, it’s currently being reported that Newcastle United will be able to spend well over £200 million in strengthening their squad in the next three years, without breaching UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules, (which stops clubs from spending more than their budget).
So, it’s safe to assume that one or two decently big names in football may well be pulling on the black and white shirt in the not-so-distant future.
What will ‘success’ look like for Newcastle United?
Winning the Premier League is, of course, what has been talked about most over the last few days – namely because of Amanda Stavely’s comments on Thursday that conquering the highest tier of English football could be as little as five years away for the Magpies.
But to paraphrase a fan slogan draped over the steps of St James’ Park on Thursday night, Geordies don’t demand a team that wins; they just want one that tries. So, the best measurement of the success of this takeover will be in Newcastle United’s presence in football – consistently being in contention for the Premier League title, qualifying for, first, the Europa League and then the Champions League, but – most importantly – showing up to each and every match with the ambition, desire, capacity and belief to win.
In her first statement as part-owner of the club, Amanda Staveley said on Thursday: ‘our ambition is aligned with the fans – to create a consistently successful team that’s regularly competing for major trophies and generates pride across the globe.’
Sounds good to us!
Is this bigger than football?
For sure. This takeover could have a huge impact on the local economy and sense of wellbeing across the whole of the North East.
For one, the PIF have already talked about investing across the board at Newcastle United Football Club – not just in the men’s first team. This could include the Women’s and Youth teams, the training facilities and academy, and in the hospitality facilities at St James’ Park. They have also publicly stated that they intend to invest in the wider region as well as the football club, although specific details about this are yet to be released.
Aside from this, it has been known for a range of businesses to improve when a city’s football team is performing well – both from increased positivity and increased productivity from staff.
Let’s not also forget, becoming one of the richest football clubs in the world will have a major impact on the city’s profile – both nationally and internationally. Retail, tourism and leisure sectors are all expected to thrive in the next few years.
The upshot of it all? A booming local economy – increasing plenty new job opportunities in the process – and a renewed sense of pride and ambition within the city and, indeed, the whole of the North East.