October 7th will likely be a day that will live in the memories of Newcastle United fans all over with a new owner taking over the club. Dreams of Mbappe and Haaland in the famous black and white stripes are sure to be filling the minds of Geordies, the Newcastle faithful. While it may not be realistic to have these transfers come to fruition, it is still an exciting time for Newcastle fans but there are issues clouding the takeover.
After 14 years of ownership and two relegations, the much maligned owner of Newcastle United, Mike Ashley has sold the club much to the joy of fans. Ashley’s reign as owner has seen the club go from a challenger for European places to a favorite for relegation through a slew of bad managerial appointments and failed transfers. The loyal and passionate Geordies have long awaited this moment as Ashely has finally left the club.
Before selling the club this October, Ashley had been trying to sell the club for a while as he wanted to move out of the toxic relationship with the club. After a year of limbo after a failed bid, the Saudi-backed Public Investment Fund(PIF) finally purchased a controlling percentage of ownership in the club, rendering them as the top shareholders.
Last year’s bid by the PIF failed not due to any monetary issue but rather an issue over TV rights regarding Premier League games. The issue stems from Saudi Arabia blockading Qatar, meaning that the Qatari-backed BEIN Sports couldn’t show Premier League games in Saudi Arabia. Despite the overwhelming human rights issues that many brought up during the failed takeover, it was the TV rights issue that sank the takeover.
A year after this failed bid, the PIF came back in with the issue resolved with Qatar, meaning that there would be no objection from the league. The PIF, with Amanda Staveley leading the bid, was able to negotiate a 300 million pound bid for the club with Ashley accepting it. With the PIF and the might of Saudi Arabia behind it, Newcastle United became the richest club on Earth in terms of the wealth of the controlling owner.
Before Newcastle fans let the dream of having a team full of Mbappe, Pedri and Donnaruma drive them to believing that this success will come overnight, it would be beneficial to see how the club will approach spending and their overall plan. Rather than the current free spending ways of Manchester City or PSG, it is likely ownership will opt for the path that both clubs took after they began their ownership.
Meaning that the club will focus on bringing in the spine of the team rather than spending an insane amount of money on big names. City did this by bringing in Vincent Kompany, who would become an icon for the club, and PSG brought in Thiago Motta, creating a great midfield partnership with Matuidi. After bringing in those foundational pieces, both clubs spent big the following summer to begin legitimizing themselves with City and Carlos Tevez and PSG with Zlatan Ibrahimović.
By slowly building themselves up like that, both in terms of squad and image, it gave them the platform to then spend money on superstars years down the road. Newcastle will likely follow this model as it will allow the club to protect their investment and allow their ambitions to grow. As much as Geordies may want the team to challenge for the title next season, it looks like it will take a few years to truly match those ambitions.
This means that rather than Mbappe or Haaland donning the Newcastle jersey next season, it’s more realistic to potentially see players like Anthony Martial or James Tarkowski in Northern England in 2022. While not the biggest names, they may prove to be better investments for now, as they can prove to be contributors in stabilizing the club in the post-Ashley era.
It would be wrong to discuss this takeover without delving into the concerns regarding the PIF and their backers. The largest of these concerns being, of course, the human rights violations that groups such as Amnesty International have brought up.
Sportswashing is a term that refers to states or nations using sports and sporting events to either boost or clean their image on a global scale. There are a lot of examples of this throughout modern sports history from the myriad of World Cups held by dictatorships or the infamous 1936 summer Olympics held in Germany.
This takeover, like the City, Chelsea and PSG takeovers, is an example of a state seeking to improve its image on a larger scale. For example, PSG’s Qatari ownership was responsible for the 2022 World Cup bid in Qatar, which has already claimed the lives of thousands of migrant workers. Although it’s not a new phenomenon by any means, this is definitely one of the most concerning takeovers due to some of the actions undertaken by those connected to the PIF.
Amnesty International, an organization dedicated to protecting human rights, has already been publicly condemning the sale and asking for a meeting with the league over the sale of the club. From the jailing and harassment of activists and journalists to continuing the destructive Yemeni civil war, causing the worst famine on Earth, there are no shortages of violations that human rights groups are demanding be brought up. These very valid concerns have largely be ignored by the league as a whole.
It would be unfair to criticize Newcastle fans for supporting their team as the overwhelming majority weren’t asking for new owners with such a controversial background. Fans are powerless in this situation, unfortunately no amount of protesting will stop the sale as only the league can stop it. However, it’s still required of the fans to not be blind of the atrocities of the ownership as they likely watch their team grow from strength to strength and bring some semblance of joy back to St James’ Park.
While Newcastle isn’t the typical giant of the English game, this takeover will prove to be one of the largest stories of the season, if not the year. The impacts of the takeover will not be seen for years, requiring the Geordie faithful to be patient as the club navigates this new path. For the meantime, Newcastle will have to stay up and avoid relegation as they currently sit in 19th.
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