History has not been kind to Newcastle United fans lately. The club – which hasn’t won a major trophy in over 50 years now – is currently positioned a single place from the bottom after just a few weeks into the season. With the news that Newcastle United has been acquired by the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia, fans were thrilled to see an end to billionaire Mike Ashley’s reign more than anything.
Three out of the Premier League’s 20 teams are relegated every year, which leads to decreased broadcast coverage and other revenue for each team; a prospect Newcastle was staring down the barrel of. With much of this attributed to mismanagement at the hands of Ashley himself, there’s hope the Saudis will invest in new players and potentially make the team more competitive.
Despite the fact Newcastle United hasn’t won a game all year, this £300 million (AU$558.44 million) investment is frankly a no brainer for Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. The franchise is supported by one of the strongest fanbases in England, regularly drawing crowds exceeding 50,000 to its stadium. Yasir Al Rumayyan, Head of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, is set to become a non-executive chairman of the team.
“We are extremely proud to become the new owners of Newcastle United, one of the most famous clubs in English football,” Al Rumayyan said via statement.
“We thank the Newcastle fans for their tremendously loyal support over the years and we are excited to work together with them.”
This latest development has been in the works for a while, with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund receiving the approval to take over Newcastle United FC from the UK’s Premier League after a year-and-a-half-long process. The final hurdle was eliminated earlier this week when Saudi Arabia agreed to lift its broadcasting ban on the Qatar-based BeIn Media Group. For context, BeIN had been a major opponent of the Newcastle takeover, claiming the Saudi ban – as well as the alleged piracy of BeIn content – was massively damage to sports rights holders.
In fact, the consortium walked away from the Newcastle United negotiations back in July 2020, citing prolonged regulatory issues and the pandemic. Human rights activists that are concerned with Saudi Arabia were met with the reassurances of the Premier League of the PIF’s independence as owners, given its status as a state-owned investment fund.
“The Premier League has now received legally binding assurances that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will not control Newcastle United Football Club.”
While it is unclear what changes will be implemented under new ownership at this stage – with doubts already being voiced in regards to coach Steve Bruce’s future with the club – the prospect alone has renewed optimism within the fanbase that relegation has been avoided. Perhaps we’ll eventually see the Geordies and Saudis rejoice together at St James’ Park… and what a sight that’ll be.