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Analysis: What Newcastle United's takeover means for club football

Published at :October 12, 2021 at 8:14 PM
Modified at :December 13, 2023 at 1:01 PM
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(Courtesy : NYT/Newcastle United)

Sudesh Baniya

The Magpies have new owners after a year-long saga and 14 years under Mike Ashley.

After a saga that was more politically significant than just the football landscape, Newcastle United have their new owners. If their recent dip, which sees them placed 19th in the table, was not enough to catch attention, the new takeover has certainly done it. Infact, the only football discussions surrounding the club have been regarding manager Steve Bruce's future.

Videos of Newcastle fans, emblematic of their hopes with the new ownership, started emerging as soon as the takeover was announced. While the majority of them were seen celebrating outside St. James' Park, others took to social media platforms to express themselves.

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However, the takeover, valued to be around £300m - which makes Newcastle United the richest football club - has created a plethora of discussion points in and outside of football. The ownership's change of hands has also concerned those who are completely unrelated to the club, but in a pessimistic way. Most of those concerns occupied a broader context and asked more questions regarding the situation.

What will be the ripple effect of yet another state-backed club with big pockets? Where will football go from here? Let's analyze what the whole saga means for the future of club football:

Club football continues to be commercialized

As far as modern football is concerned, a struggle between romanticism and commercialization has been there forever. Saudi Arabia's national project, the Public Investment Fund (PIF)'s involvement at Newcastle United signals a shift to the latter aspect, if it hasn't already.

To understand how it might affect football and its commercial dealings, we need to understand the whole context of this takeover. While the Premier League has clearly indicated that the Saudi government will have no authority in the PIF, involving a firm that has deep pockets will create a range of changes. For fans, including but not limited to the Premier League, this has emerged as another example of how football has turned into a give-and-take means of profit.

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Inflation of transfer market

The first thing that will be expected of the new owners will be investment into the club. Newcastle's infrastructure needs a lot of renovation. Yet, the focus will be on their transfer spending. We'll have to wait for the winter to come around in order to see what happens. But, predictions have been made about market inflation.

Neymar's bumper €222m transfer to another state-funded project PSG, in 2017 has started to make rounds yet again. It's unlikely for Newcastle United to do something on a similar scale. However, they will be more equipped to bid and compete with other sides to lure players. More bidders means more involvement of money, which ultimately inflates the market.


The general base value of players will increase, causing only select clubs to have access to premium signings. Not all clubs have access to owners with hefty capital and conditions are only expected to worsen. A European Super League might not even be required to hand unanimous power to a certain group of clubs.

Another sports-washing project?

The PIF's involvement in the deal is what has attracted the most polarizing opinions. The Saudi government-funded entity will own 80% of the club's shares. The rest 20% will be evenly split between the Reuben Brothers and RB Sports and Media. The involvement of another gulf state, with a poor track record on human rights, has re-ignited the notion of "sports-washing."

Frequently associated with Qatar's investments, the 2022 World Cup in particular, sports-washing means improving a country's image using sports as a tool. Newcastle United's takeover has made the Magpies' fans turn a blind eye to the accusations surrounding the Saudis – an encouraging sign for any firm/ state looking to rectify their image globally by owning sports brands. Hence, it won't come as a surprise if enterprises and states begin using club investments to lure goodwill and improve their image.

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