A Saudi-led consortium is close to finally taking over Newcastle United and ending Mike Ashley’s 14-year ownership of the club, and a deal is expected to be approved imminently.
Some sources have suggested that the £ 300 million takeover could even be completed within the next 24 hours, although others are more cautious, with Amanda Staveley, the British businesswoman, likely to be the face of the deal on an interim basis before being secluded.
The development follows news that Saudi Arabia has lifted its four-year ban on the beIN Sports network of sports channels to allow Premier League, UEFA and FIFA matches to be broadcast legally again, as well as promising to close the pirate websites operating in the country.
Furthermore, Saudi Arabia is understood to be in discussions over beIN’s Sports claims for damages totaling more than $ 1 billion due to the country being behind a pirate network, BeoutQ, which has been streaming games illegally for several years.
However, solving the piracy problem was not the only key factor in putting the deal back on the table, which was first proposed in March 2020.
It was also downgraded to the Saudi-backed Public Investment Fund (PIF), the state’s sovereign wealth fund overseen by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, which provides assurances to the Premier League that the Saudi state will not participate on the day to day. Newcastle running. That had been a major hurdle when the initial deal collapsed in July last year, with the Premier League considering the PIF de facto as the Saudi state when it came to passing the Owners-Directors Test.
That issue has been the subject of a lengthy legal dispute by Ashley, which was expected to be resolved at an arbitration hearing in January, but will now be dropped.
News of the current Newcastle owner’s imminent departure will bring joy and relief to long-suffering fans, who believe the retail mogul has crashed the club during his no-frills tenure. The prospect of the club being revitalized by new investors with deep pockets is now tantalizingly close to becoming a reality.
However, there is likely to be a strong backlash from human rights groups, notably Amnesty International, which has long warned that the Saudi regime is trying to “sportily launder” its reputation.
Amnesty has also warned that civil society has also been silenced in Saudi Arabia and that “anyone who criticizes the regime has been exiled, arrested or threatened.”
The US intelligence department has significantly named Prince Mohammed for having approved the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Turkish embassy in Saudi Arabia in October 2018.
The Saudi consortium will own 80% of the club, with 10% for property developers Simon and David Reuben and the remaining 10% for Staveley’s PCP Capital Partners.
One of the first tasks of the new board is likely to be to appoint a new manager to replace the unpopular Steve Bruce. Although the former Manchester United midfielder has kept Newcastle in the top tier since succeeding the beloved Rafael Benítez in July 2019, he is regarded as an ‘Ashley puppet’ by many elements of the fanbase and has yet to oversee a victory in the league. after seven games this season. With his team currently on the second floor, Bruce is almost certainly on borrowed time.
It’s an open secret that the Saudis originally planned to reinstall Benitez in the manager’s office in St James’ Park if the acquisition proceeded as planned last year, but the Spaniard has since taken over Everton and after all. , it will not have an emotional impact. Charged back to Tyneside.
Former Italy, Chelsea and Internazionale manager Antonio Conte and former Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane were among the decorated names who connected with the post on Wednesday night. However, sources close to the Saudi-led deal have always maintained that while the decline would be unthinkable, they would initially focus primarily on updating and improving the club’s tired infrastructure.
While a new boot camp and upgraded academy are likely to be among the top priorities, so are hundreds of millions of pounds in investments in larger regional and community regeneration projects in the Northeast.
Local MPs and council leaders have long supported a possible inauguration that coincides with the government’s “leveling off” agenda. Indeed, it is understood that discreet discussions about the best way to reactivate buying have been taking place in recent weeks between British government intermediaries and their Saudi counterparts.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism