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Premier League confirm Newcastle takeover

Aditya Chaudhuri Aditya Chaudhuri

Saudi Arabia-led consortium finally gains full ownership of the Tyneside club.

 

The Premier League has confirmed that Newcastle United has officially been taken over by a Saudi Arabia-led consortium of the Public Investment Fund (PIF), PCP Capital Partners, and RB Sports & Media, ending months of speculation.

The League has said in a statement that it has received ‘legally binding assurances’ that the Saudi Arabian government will not own or interfere with the daily activities of the club. This is crucial, given that one of the parties in the consortium is the Saudi Public Investment Fund, which is the state’s sovereign wealth fund directly overseen by the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, but assurances have been made to the Premier League that the Saudi state will not be involved.

It was the PIF’s involvement which was the major blockade in the deal, especially last July, when the Premier League considered the PIF the de facto Saudi state with relation to passing its Owners’ and Directors’ Test.

Another major issue which held up the takeover was the ban of the sports channel network beIN Sports in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. In 2018, Saudi Arabia’s neighbour Qatar filed a complaint stating that Saudi Arabia had blocked beIN from broadcasting in the country and that Saudi Arabian TV network beoutQ was involved in piracy of its content.

beIN, a Premier League rights holder, had asked the League to block the deal. Following Saudi Arabia’s removal of the ban on beIN and Qatar given further assurances that there would be no instances of piracy, the takeover deal could finally move ahead.

 

The statement released by the Premier League read as follows:

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.

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.

 

The approval of the £300 million takeover means it is the end of the road for Mike Ashley’s 14-year tenure as owner. Ashley, owner of Sports Direct International, had taken over the Magpies in 2007, but has faced severe criticism from the fans for failing to grow the club properly throughout his time at the club.

Newcastle United has confirmed that Yasir Al-Rumayyan, governor of the Public Investment Fund, will act as the club’s non-executive chairman, while Amanda Staveley, Chief Executive at PCP Capital Partners, will also get a seat on the board.

 

The club released a statement that said:

An investment group led by the Public Investment Fund (PIF), and also comprising PCP Capital Partners and RB Sports & Media (the “Investment Group”), has completed the acquisition of 100% of Newcastle United Limited and Newcastle United Football Club Limited (“Newcastle United” or the “Club”) from St. James Holdings Limited.

All requisite approvals have been obtained from the English Premier League and the acquisition was completed on 7 October 2021.

The Investment Group is comprised of long-term, patient investors who have every confidence in the future success of the Club. 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.

 

His Excellency Yasir Al-Rumayyan added:

We are extremely proud to become the new owners of Newcastle United, one of the most famous clubs in English football.

We thank the Newcastle fans for their tremendously loyal support over the years and we are excited to work together with them.

 

Staveley said:

This is a long-term investment. We are excited about the future prospects for Newcastle United.

We intend to instill a united philosophy across the Club, establish a clear purpose, and help provide leadership that will allow Newcastle United to go on to big achievements over the long term.

Our ambition is aligned with the fans – to create a consistently successful team that’s regularly competing for major trophies and generates pride across the globe.

 

Jamie Reuben of RB Sports & Media said:

We look forward to a great future for Newcastle United. Newcastle is a fantastic city, which is why our family has been investing heavily in the area for many years. To become part of this great Club and its amazing fans is a privilege.

We will build a true community Club, based upon our family’s knowledge of the city and in line with our plans that have been worked on closely with Newcastle City Council to deliver long-term sustainable growth for the area.

 

The takeover sees the PIF own 80% of the club, while businessmen and property developers Simon and David Reuben will keep their 10%. The remaining 10% will be with Amanda Staveley’s PCP Capital Partners.

The takeover is set to bring in major changes that are likely to see a new training ground and a more developed academy with more funds ready to be invested following the deal.

The deal, though, doesn’t come without controversy. In the past, Amnesty International appealed to the Premier League to block the deal given Saudi Arabia’s ‘appalling’ human rights records, stating that the deal was a sportswash method by the Saudi authorities to cover the human rights records through the glamour of football.

 

Amnesty UK Chief Executive, Sacha Deshmukh, said the following in a statement:

Instead of allowing those implicated in serious human rights violations to walk into English football simply because they have deep pockets, we’ve urged the Premier League to change their owners’ and directors’ test to address human rights issues.

Ever since this deal was first talked about we said it represented a clear attempt by the Saudi authorities to sportswash their appalling human rights record with the glamour of top-flight football.

Saudi ownership of St James’ Park was always as much about image management for Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and his government as it was about football.

Under Mohammed Bin Salman, the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia remains dire – with government critics, women’s rights campaigners, Shia activists and human defenders still being harassed and jailed, often after blatantly unfair trials.

The closed-door trial of Jamal Khashoggi’s alleged killers was widely perceived to be a part of a wider whitewash by the authorities, and Saudi Arabia is accused of a catalogue of crimes under international humanitarian law during the long conflict in Yemen.

The phrase ‘human rights’ doesn’t even appear in the (Premier League’s) owners’ and directors’ test despite English football supposedly adhering to FIFA standards.

We’ve sent the Premier League a suggested new human rights-compliant test and we reiterate our call on them to overhaul their standards on this.

As with Formula One, elite boxing, golf or tennis, an association with top-tier football is a very attractive means of rebranding a country or person with a tarnished reputation. The Premier League needs to better understand the dynamic of sportswashing and tighten its ownership rules.

 

Amidst all the noise and happenings off the pitch, Newcastle United would hope that a change of ownership will bring about a change of luck on the pitch as well.

Currently sitting 19th in the Premier League table without a single win, the Magpies will need to turn their season around quickly to make sure they remain in the Premier League next season, and to make matters worse, the woeful start to the season is all but certain to see manager Steve Bruce vacate his position soon, which means the club will also have to hunt for a new manager.

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Aditya Chaudhuri

Aditya Chaudhuri

Hailing from the City of Joy, the things that bring me joy are cricket, a good non-tilt CS:GO session, F1 and movies.

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