By Andrew Warshaw
October 8 – Newcastle United, one of the English game’s proverbial sleeping giants, look set to become European football’s latest superpower after the long-drawn-out £300 million+ takeover of the club by a Saudi Arabian-backed consortium was finally completed.
In the blink of an eye, the club, which enjoys a massive support base but has yet to win a league game this season, have been catapulted into the financial stratosphere and will expect to rival the spending power of the likes of Manchester City and Paris St. Germain, both of whom are also Middle East-backed.
The takeover by the Saudi Public Investment Fund initially collapsed last year over concerns about how much control the kingdom’s leadership would have in the running of Newcastle. PIF will be the majority partner alongside British-based Reuben brothers and financier Amanda Staveley, a consortium reportedly worth an eye-watering £700 billion.
“The Premier League, Newcastle United Football Club and St James Holdings Limited have today settled the dispute over the takeover of the club by the consortium of PIF, PCP Capital Partners and RB Sports & Media,” a Premier League statement said.
“Following the completion of the Premier League’s owners’ and directors’ Test, the club has been sold to the consortium with immediate effect. The legal disputes concerned which entities would own and/or have the ability to control the club following the takeover.
“All parties have agreed the settlement is necessary to end the long uncertainty for fans over the club’s ownership. The Premier League has now received legally binding assurances that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will not control Newcastle United Football Club.
“All parties are pleased to have concluded this process which gives certainty and clarity to Newcastle United Football Club and their fans.”
As Newcastle, one of England’s most under-achieving clubs, embarks on a new era, the club issued its own statement in which it confirmed that Yasir Al-Rumayyan, who runs PIF, will act as non-executive chairman.
“The Investment Group is comprised of long-term, patient investors who have every confidence in the future success of the Club,” the statement said.
“Today’s announcement is the conclusion of a thorough and detailed process that has allowed the Investment Group to arrive at a deal that benefits all stakeholders and will leave Newcastle United well-placed to pursue a clear, long-term strategy.”
“We are extremely proud to become the new owners of Newcastle United, one of the most famous clubs in English football,” Al-Rumayyan himself added. “We thank the Newcastle fans for their tremendously loyal support over the years and we are excited to work together with them.”
Newcastle fans celebrated in their thousands as the decision was announced that the 14-year reign of controversial owner Mike Ashley, lambasted for failing to invest in the team, was finally coming to an end. Newcastle have twice been relegated during his tenure, only to bounce back each time.
One of the first consequences of the takeover will almost certainly be the removal of manager Steve Bruce as the club seeks a more high-profile figure to take charge.
Staveley immediately hailed the takeover as a game-changer and said the plan was for Newcastle, who have not been league champions since 1927 or won a significant honour for 66 years, to be “regularly competing for major trophies and generat[ing] pride across the globe” with the ambition of winning the league within five seasons.
“We’re really excited about strengthening the squad, but we have to work within Financial Fair Play and make sure this is done over a longer term,” she said.
“Everybody talks about it [big-name players], but what you need is a team that works well together. That’s also just as important.”
Newcastle are currently 19th in the table, one place off the bottom, with no chance of diving into the transfer market until the next window.
“Relegation is a real big issue at the moment, and we’re going to have to work hard,” said Staveley. “But we’ve got a great squad and this squad should not be at 19th position. But with a fair wind and some hard work we’ll get there.”
Contact the writer of this story at email@example.com