After a year and a half of negotiations that have had their ups and downs, Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF), together with a Dubai investment fund that includes British billionaire Amanda Staveley and investment brothers David and Simon Reuben, has completed the acquisition of Newcastle United, one of the most important and long-established football clubs in the United Kingdom.
The deal was finally closed for USD 410 million, the amount for which the previous owner of the club, Mike Ashley, finally decided to sell. The deal was made possible by the approval of Britain's football governing authority after disagreements and impediments from Qatari broadcaster beIn Sports over a dispute with the Saudi kingdom over rights to cover sporting events and complaints from other English teams about the way the club was acquired and a competition issue.
"We are very proud to become the new owners of Newcastle United, one of the most famous clubs in English football," said Yasir al-Rumayyan, a director of PIF. "We thank the Newcastle fans for their tremendously loyal support over the years and we are excited to be working together with them," he said, as quoted by Arab News.
The PIF-backed proposal also pledged to inject some $340 million into football and other facilities in the north-east of England, including around the St James' Park stadium site. Following this reshuffle, ownership of Newcastle is split 80% to the Kingdom and 10% to each of the other partners, the Dubai fund represented by Amanda Staveley and the Reuben brothers.
Newcastle joins the list of state-owned clubs, which gives them the financial power to compete at the highest level in domestic and European competitions. Now, Paris Saint-Germain (run from Qatar) and Manchester City (run from the United Arab Emirates) are contemplating the emergence of another powerful club thanks to the financial muscle provided in this case by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
There was much rejoicing on the part of Newcastle United fans, who have seen how their team has failed to fight among the big teams in recent years, even being relegated from the top division. They have not won a league title since 1927 and the FA Cup since 1955. In the 60s and 70s they were still one of the regulars in European competitions, even reaching the Champions League in the 90s of the last century, but in recent seasons they have been struggling at the bottom of the Premier League, even in the English Second Division.
"This is a long-term investment. We are excited about Newcastle United's future prospects," said Amanda Staveley, managing director of the Dubai-based fund PCP Capital Partners. "We intend to instil a united philosophy across the club, establish a clear purpose and help provide leadership that will enable Newcastle United to achieve great things in the long term," she said. "Our ambition is aligned with the fans: to create a successful team that regularly competes for major trophies and generates pride around the world," he added, as quoted by Arab News.
This initiative is part of the Saudi kingdom's 'Vision 2030' strategy, which aims to diversify the national economic activity in different sectors other than oil (such as tourism, sports, renewable energy, etc.) so that the country's economy does not depend on crude oil.