View from the terraces

Talk of the Toon: what next for Newcastle after Saudi takeover?

The ‘dismal days of Mike Ashley are over’ as new owners spell out club’s ambitions

Newcastle United icon Alan Shearer has hailed the Saudi Arabian-backed takeover as a “special day” for the Premier League club’s supporters. 

Relegated twice from the top flight during Mike Ashley’s 14-year tenure as owner, all the club has done is “tick along and survive”, Shearer said. “We’ve had no real ambition and our fans deserve better,” he told the BBC. “I understand why there is so much happiness in the city and I feel exactly the same. Our fans also need to know that they matter, because they haven’t for 14 years, so today is special for them.”

Four years in the making, the £300m takeover has been confirmed by the Premier League and the “dismal days of Mike Ashley are over”, The Chronicle said. “Fans are now wondering exactly how things will pan out over the coming months and years.”

Here we look at the background to the takeover and what the new owners said about the future of the Toon. 

Why was the takeover delayed?

In April last year Ashley agreed a buyout for the club with a Saudi-led consortium: the Public Investment Fund (PIF), PCP Capital Partners and RB Sports & Media. However, as the Premier League assessed the move under its owners’ and directors’ test, concerns were raised about the kingdom’s human rights record and a pirate TV channel – beoutQ – broadcasting sport to its citizens. 

The Premier League also wanted to know if Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman himself would effectively be the owner of the Tyneside club, but the buying consortium said its PIF was separate from the state. This is despite Bin Salman being listed as chair of PIF, the BBC reported. 

Concerns raised by Amnesty and beIN Sports 

When the proposed takeover was announced, it was criticised by Amnesty International and Qatar-based beIN Sports, the Premier League’s broadcast partner in the Middle East. 

Amnesty UK director Kate Allen said: “All businesses need to safeguard against any possible links to human rights violations, and English football is no different.” Meanwhile, beIN Sports CEO Yousef al-Obaidly wrote to the chairpersons of all top-flight clubs expressing his concern at the deal. 

In the letter Al-Obaidly accused the Saudi Arabian government of the “facilitation of the near three-year theft of the Premier League’s commercial rights – and in turn your club’s commercial revenues – through its backing of the huge-scale beoutQ pirate service”. He added: “It is no exaggeration to say that the future economic model of football is at stake.”

The Daily Mail also reported in April that the Crown Prince had put pressure on Boris Johnson to intervene in the attempted takeover. Bin Salman warned the prime minister that Anglo-Saudi relations could be damaged if a decision by the Premier League to block the deal was not “corrected”.

Mohammed bin Salman and Boris Johnson

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Boris Johnson in 2018

Dan Kitwood/WPA Pool/Getty Images

Why has the takeover now been agreed?

The takeover bid was back on the table after the consortium, which is led by British businesswoman Amanda Staveley, proved the Saudi state would not have control of the club and the PIF would be seen as a separate entity, the BBC reported. A resolution came after Saudi settled the alleged piracy dispute with beIN Sports.

The Premier League, Newcastle United FC and St James Holdings Limited confirmed that following the completion of the 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,” a statement said. “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.”

What is the PIF and how much is it worth?

Newcastle have now become “one of the world’s richest football clubs” after the takeover, Sky Sports said. The PIF will take a controlling 80% stake and they have reported assets worth £320bn. Meanwhile, Staveley owns 10% and the other 10% is owned by the Reuben brothers, David and Simon, whose wealth is estimated at £21.5bn in The Sunday Times Rich List.

The PIF’s “staggering” £320bn fortune is ten times more than Manchester City’s Sheikh Mansour and almost 50 times more than Paris Saint-Germain’s Nasser Al-Khelaifi, The Sun reported. This will see Newcastle have “the wealthiest owners in world football by a distance”. 

Who will be on the club’s board?

PCP Capital Partners chief executive Staveley will be “the face of Newcastle”, said Sky Sports’ Keith Downie. “She will be the one to have her feet under the desk at the club, so to speak.” Yasir Al-Rumayyan, governor of PIF, will serve as non-executive chairman of the club and Jamie Reuben will also be a director, representing RB Sports & Media.

Steve Bruce

Steve Bruce

Getty Images

Will Bruce be sacked as manager?

Steve Bruce, who has been managing the Magpies since July 2019, is set to hold talks next week over his future. Newcastle’s next Premier League game, against Tottenham on 17 October, would mark Bruce’s 1,000th as a manager but he admits he fears the sack and could be left on 999 games by the new owners, The Daily Telegraph reported. 

“I want to continue, I’d like the chance to show the new owners what I can do, but you have to be realistic and they may well want a new manager to launch things for them,” Bruce told The Telegraph. “New owners normally want a new manager. I’ve been around long enough to understand that.” 

According to The Sack Race Bruce is now the odds-on favourite to be the next Premier League manager to leave. Managers being mentioned as his replacement include Steven Gerrard, Antonio Conte, Eddie Howe, Roberto Martinez and Brendan Rodgers. 

Rangers boss Gerrard and ex-Chelsea head coach Conte are the 5/1 favourites to take over at Newcastle, according to Oddschecker.

‘You can expect ambition’

New “Toon supremo” Al-Rumayyan has penned an open letter to supporters and the people of the city, The Chronicle reported. Outlining the board’s plans for the future he has pledged to reopen the doors of communication and help deliver a team fans can once again be proud of.

“Most importantly, you can expect ambition,” he wrote in the letter. “Like you, we want to create a consistently successful team. We’re here to build long-term success for the club.”

Speaking to Sky Sports News, new director Staveley said Newcastle’s long-term ambition is to win the title. “Newcastle United deserves to be top of the Premier League,” she said. “We want to get there. It will take time, but we will get there.”

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