For those unfamiliar with the intricacies of modern day elite football. One look at the leading league tables around the world and you would be forgiven for overlooking some fairly big clubs. Whilst it is true that financial backing and infrastructure is not always a direct correlation with a team’s success, the obvious benefits that accompany significant funding for a football club allow the players representing the club, as well as the fans, to reap the benefits.
Whilst prominent names such as Manchester City and Paris St Germain have undoubtedly received the most scrutiny for their expansive spending in recent times, a new name has very much entered the when it comes to the potential for lavish spending.
A recent takeover of Newcastle United by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has catapulted the North-Eastern Premier League side to the very fore of the world’s most resourcefully funded teams. The end of the 14-year tenure of former Mike Ashley was greeted warmly by fans who saw the PIF takeover as an opportunity not only for a fresh start, but for a legitimate opportunity to challenge for the very best players and the biggest trophies in the sport.
Who are the PIF?
Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund is a state savings account for the Saudi Arabian government, headed by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Despite the initial uncertainty regarding the government’s involvement and criticism of recent human rights violations, the Premier League approved the takeover after receiving valid proof that the state would have no involvement in the running of the football club. With the takeover valued at £300million, the PIF now own 80% and therefore majority ownership of the club. Having made the successful bid, the fund instantly became the richest owners in world football, with a fortune that dwarfs that of the previous richest; Manchester City.
With a fund of £700billion, the PIF have provided a renewed sense of optimism and excitement to a struggling Newcastle side that found themselves in the relegation zone with just 3 points from their opening seven games. The ability to target some of the very best players and managers in the world has already seen the departure of Manager Steve Bruce who was released from his tenure following a disappointing run of results and some public criticism from Newcastle fans and critics.
What next for Newcastle?
The immediate concern will be finding a suitable replacement for Steve Bruce. With the incomprehensible resources available to them, the first priority will be to ensure the team maintains their status in the premier league. For that reason alone, the necessity to freshen things up within the first team was too big of an incentive for the new owners who ended the on-going speculation by releasing Steve Bruce of his duties after 7 games of the season. Finding a replacement that can not only stave off the dreaded relegation but build a squad capable of climbing the ladder ahead of them will be a crucial appointment in the early stages of a new era at St James’s Park.
Whilst Newcastle fans will be forgiven for expecting some of the very biggest names in world football such as Kylian Mbappe or Erling Haaland to be drafted in at the first opportunity, it will likely take some time for Newcastle to truly assert themselves as one of the powerhouses in English football. Naturally, speculation and interest has jumped ahead to the immediate 5-year plan and where Newcastle might find themselves in their quest to return to the glory days of the late 90’s and early 00’s.
The takeover hasn’t been all plain sailing for the PIF. With an initial bid rejected by the Premier League last year due to a clash with beIN sports (who owned the TV rights for the Premier League within the country), the takeover faced criticism from the other 19 Premier League clubs around the country who objected to the new owners. Whilst critics will argue that the objection comes in the face of Newcastle’s perceived impending success, an emergency meeting was arranged to bring into question the abrupt u-turn on behalf of the Premier League to allow the takeover to occur.
An abrupt end to the dispute regarding illegal streaming of beIN Sports in Saudi Arabia removed the final hurdle to what fans are seeing as a revolution in the North East, with 93.8% of fans from the Newcastle United Supporters’ Trust (NUST) wanting the takeover to be given approval regardless of the concerns about human rights issues within the country. Many fans are hoping for an alternative approach, with the takeover believed to help the impact on the middle east state, a prospect which Mohammed bin Salman has proven to be a lot more receptive to, as he has allowed women to drive in Saudi Arabia; something that wasn’t allowed when he first came to power in running his fathers’ government.
The Future of Football
Newcastle’s new ownership structure have publicly outlined their targets for the club; to win the Premier League and compete for the biggest trophies in the sport. The speed at which this will be accomplished will need to be carefully considered as Newcastle Director Amanda Staveley highlighted that it takes “patience, investment, time”. With one of those considerably well catered for, the question on everyone’s lips now is ‘how long will it take’?
As a case study, Manchester City were a mid-table side when they were acquired in 2008 by Sheikh Mansour. Having not won a trophy for 32 seasons, it took them just 4 to reach the summit of the Premier League following the most dramatic finish to a season in Premier League history.
Following in the footsteps of Chelsea and Manchester City in recent years, the takeover of Premier League clubs by affluent owners has been a proven recipe for success. The extent and the duration of the success will be a measure for fans when they look back at the takeover in 10 or 20 years however, for the time being, the PIF takeover has the capability of turning Newcastle United into the most dominant club in world football to an extent that has otherwise not been witnessed in modern football.