Newcastle United: The new heavyweights?

Former first division giants, Newcastle United are the latest football club in the moneyball club list joining world-beaters Manchester City, PSG, and Chelsea. However, what distinguishes them from other heavyweights like the Manchester Uniteds and Inter Milans is the tarnished reputation the owners bring with them.

“As far as I know it’s the third club that is owned by a country. I’m not sure how many countries are still out there who have the financial power and interest to do so, but this is how it is, and what we have to deal with.” expressed an unhappy Klopp.

The owners have been accused of sports-washing to boost their public image thus gathering immense criticism from media and rivals. Sportswashing is probably going to develop as the scope of the worldwide game likewise develops, and yet fans and the more extensive public are starting to look past the charm of the headliners and the trophy cabinets.

In the past, Man City’s Abu Dhabi based owners and PSG’s Qatar based ownership has drawn flak owing to the treatment of migrant workers by the middle eastern countries.

“We’re not saying who should and shouldn’t be buying into European football, but we want all clubs to understand that their overseas owners may be using the prestige of elite football to effectively ‘rebrand’ themselves.”

“Instead of actually tackling abuse, many countries with atrocious human rights records have a habit of enlisting expensive PR firms – and football ownership can be another form of PR.”, mentioned Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK’s director.

A consortium of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), Britain’s PCP Capital Partners and RB Sports and Media persuaded the Premier League and Sports Direct Tycoon – Mike Ashley to sell the Magpies for a revealed 300 million pounds.

The North-East England club thus calls time on one of the most unpopular relationships in the Premier League history ending a truly disastrous ownership spell. In Mike’s 14-year reign, the club has been relegated twice and constantly cited a lack of ambition. With fans rejoicing, it could mark the return of glory days to Tyneside.

“Under this ownership, there has been no ambition, effectively no investment and no hope for a sporting entity that hasn’t been a sporting entity. It’s been there to survive and nothing more,” a spokesman for the Newcastle United Supporters Trust (NUST) protested. A poll by the NUST found 93.8 per cent of the fans were in favour of the takeover.

The Saudi Arabian ownership comes at a time coupled with negligible genuine English interest in the world’s top club tier football with no major UK sponsors. All England stages to offer is heritage; the true proprietorship lies in foreign hands.

The prominence of Middle Eastern sporting has been a striking example of their development in the sporting industry. The motivation for Middle Eastern brands, with global ambitions to partner with elite European clubs of global significance principally through broadcast exposure, is evident.

All the way from the Qatar Sports Investments investment with PSG to the Etihad Airways sponsorship with New York City FC, middle eastern investments have a direct impact on club revenues.

The impact of the investments, specifically in the playing staff and club infrastructure promises club honours at prestigious competitions. The best example would be that of Manchester City ownership – Abu Dhabi United Group.

What changed from last year’s rejected bid?

Last year’s failed acquisition was an outcome of the disapproval by Qatar based beIN Sports – a major broadcast rights holder of the Premier League.

This came at a time of increased tensions between the states of Saudi Arabia and Qatar with the Saudi state banning the beIN extension rights motion for the Middle East and North African regions. Furthermore, the Premier League accused Saudi of being a major and frequent backer of online piracy thereby collapsing the negotiations.

This year, however, we’ve witnessed eased diplomatic tensions and the lifting of the Saudi state’s ban along with Riyadh’s settlements of Qatar’s 1 billion dollars arbitration claim over pirate broadcasts through the BeoutQ Network.

Owing to this, the Premier League said in a statement, “Breakthrough made after owners have finally proved to the Premier League that PIF involvement will be separate from Saudi state”.

PIF, a fund that has invested in some big names such as Disney, Uber, Facebook, Starbucks, and pharmaceutical company Pfizer will hold 80 per cent of the shares of the club that boasts of legends Alan Shearer, Kevin Keegan, Peter Beardsley, Paul Gascoigne, and Les Ferdinand among others.

Whether or not this will lead to Newcastle playing attractive football and attracting world-class players is another question. With Steve Bruce getting sacked, Newcastle United have arguably already taken the first step towards becoming a “serious club”.

Freckled with political interests, it is up to the modern fan to analyse the modern game and draw a line between on-field performances and off-field agendas. But it is still worth expressing who aligns towards which end in the race to own the footballing world.

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