Reports first emerged 18 months ago that a Saudi Arabian consortium was interested in buying my club Newcastle United from Mike Ashley, and on Thursday, that $407 million deal was completed.
We are now backed by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund who has a reported wealth of $434 billion. That makes Manchester City‘s Sheikh Mansour‘s estimated wealth of $23 billion look like small change in comparison.
As soon as the takeover was confirmed, deal broker and 10% owner Amanda Stavely announced UEFA Champions League qualification and winning trophies were the long-term targets.
You would think I would be elated with the deal, but I find myself torn and full of mixed emotions.
THE FOG ON THE TYNE HAS LIFTED
I’m glad to see the back of Mike Ashley. His neglect and mistreatment of the squad, stadium, facilities, fans, and legends of the club have made it difficult to support Newcastle. Combine that with the zero ambition of recent seasons where the only goal was to avoid relegation, and it’s been a tough 14 years.
Some of his appointments have been more than questionable, with Joe Kinnear the lowest point. The former Wimbledon manager was appointed in the 2008/09 season, which ended with him being fired in April and us being relegated.
Four years later, he bizarrely returned to the club as Director of Football. He alienated the local media, failed to sign a player permanently, and made us the laughing stock of the Premier League with a series of blunders.
The worse one was when Kinnear watched Birmingham City in the Capital One Cup against Swansea. He was so impressed by Shane Ferguson that he asked Birmingham’s staff about the possibility of signing him. They were puzzled by his inquiry because Ferguson was on loan at St. Andrews from Newcastle. Truly baffling how some people get into these positions.
It looks like the dark days are over, and the fan in me is excited we have owners who want to take us back to the glory days. The days of the mid-’90s under Kevin Keegan playing swashbuckling football and the early 2000’s when we were managed by one of the game’s true greats Sir Bobby Robson. Both of them helped me fall in love in love with the club.
SUCCESS COMES AT A PRICE
The human side of me is concerned about this takeover.
I have questions about the true motivation of the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund to use Newcastle as a vehicle for Sportswashing. By allowing this the Premier League is sending out a hypocritical message, particularly to the LGBTQ+ community, and why have they sanctioned the takeover now after initially blocking it last year.
Both male and female same-sex sexual activity is illegal in Saudi Arabia. Punishment for being found guilty can be fines, public whipping, beatings, chemical castrations, imprisonment up to life, or torture. This extract is directly from the Premier League website:
“That’s why we, the Premier League, proudly stand alongside Stonewall in promoting equality and diversity.
We will ensure everyone within the organisation and all those connected to clubs, including supporters, feel safe and welcome, irrespective of sexual orientation or gender identity.
A key focus of the partnership with Stonewall will be encouraging LGBT+ acceptance among children and young people involved in community and education initiatives such as Premier League Primary Stars and Premier League Kicks, and within Academies.
Coaches, teachers and leaders will be equipped with bespoke resources and programmes developed by the League and Stonewall which promote positive attitudes towards the LGBT+ community.
Our clubs will also come together between 4-13 December to celebrate the latest Rainbow Laces campaign and show support for all LGBT people in football and beyond.”
By allowing Saudi Arabia a seat at the table, they’re risking undermining all the good work and progress the Rainbow Lace initiative has achieved.
The Premier League released a statement saying they finally signed off on the deal after receiving legally binding assurances that there was a separation between the majority owners of the club, the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, and the Saudi state.
That’s not the full story.
beIN Sports own the TV rights for Premier League in the Middle East, but Saudi Arabia banned them from broadcasting in their country. In their place was a pirate broadcaster who retransmitted the beIN Sports signal with their BeoutQ logo.
Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia allowed beIN Sports to broadcast in their country, beIN Sports withdrew their protest for the takeover, and the Premier League sanctioned the deal.
In the end, it all came down to money and TV rights.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR THE PREMIER LEAGUE?
The Big Six could become the Big Seven. It will take a few years, but if Newcastle evolves in a similar fashion to Manchester City, they could break into the Top 4 in 3/4 years.
Some people will argue the league is now more competitive, and we have one more team capable of challenging for the title. But that also means we’re further away from seeing a repeat of Leicester City‘s magical title win.
Established clubs like Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham, Everton, and Leicester City risk falling further down the pecking order because they can’t compete financially with the mega-rich clubs.
WHAT HAPPENS NOW FOR NEWCASTLE?
It’s almost certain Steve Bruce will be replaced in the next few days. The football, tactics, and player selection have been dire, and Mike Ashley has used him as a shield from the fan’s outrage. The new owners are willing to pay his $11 million compensation package, and the conversation will turn to who will be appointed to replace him.
My dream choice would be Antonio Conte. I’m a big fan, and he is the only world-class candidate out of a job at the moment. Brendan Rodgers is rumored to be the new owner’s first choice, but I can’t see him leaving Leicester any time soon. This appointment will set the tone for the project, and they need to get it right.
The second question is, who will we sign in January? I’m confident we will make a Robinho-type marquee signing just like Manchester City and my monies on Phillippe Coutinho. I think Luka Jović from Real Madrid is another possibility.
We will likely entice star players with big contracts from our rivals to weaken them. Manchester City did a similar thing signing Jolean Lescott from Everton, Gareth Barry and James Milner from Aston Villa, and Samir Nasri, Gäel Clichy, and Bacary Sagna from Arsenal.
For me, I’ll take some time to reflect on this takeover and see how I feel about it in the coming days, weeks, and months.
It’s easy to get blinded by the possibilities, the hope, and the excitement this takeover brings after such a dark time in our club’s history. I have a feeling all the money and success will come at the expense of the club’s morals and soul as Saudi Arabia morphs us into a PR tool.
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