The long-awaited buyout of Newcastle United was completed this afternoon by a consortium consisting of PIF, PCP Capital Partners and RB Sports & Media. The proposed deal has been over 18 months in the making, with the buyers’ interest first reported on 14 April 2020. Hindered by a series of obstacles that led towards Premier League arbitration, the takeover process had become one of the messiest in English history.
The waters have long been muddied on several matters relating to the takeover due to the consortium's link to Saudi government and royalty. Mohammed bin Salman, Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, is Chairman of the Public Investment Fund, the primary party within the deal.
The catalyst for the completion of the move appears to be the resolution of Saudi piracy issues. Saudi Arabia has long-since been embroiled in a standoff with Qatari-owned beIN Sport, having broadcast Premier League matches licensed to beIN. However, the issue has now been resolved between the parties. Saudi Arabia allegedly paid more than $1 billion in compensation to beIN, which could be a sign of what is to come in terms of the new owners' spending power.
For the majority of Newcastle fans, the takeover has been a source of excitement and hope. Newcastle currently sit in the relegation zone at 19th in the Premier League, and are yet to win a competitive game this season. Manager Steve Bruce's last 37 games in charge have yielded only 5 wins.
Bin Salman recently set out plans to increase the PIF's assets to over $1 trillion by 2025, as well as creating 1.8 million direct and indirect jobs. The amount of money at play is unparalleled and is likely to mean massive investment in both Newcastle United and the city of Newcastle itself.
The buyout isn't without opposition, with accusations of sportswashing rife. Amnesty International had urged the Premier League to reconsider the deal. The organisation have highlighted Saudi Arabia's human rights record, questioning whether they should pass the Premier League owners' and directors' test. Pundits such as Gary Lineker have also joined the discourse, tweeting: "Football fans want their clubs to succeed, but at what price?"
The move sees a long-awaited end to the Mike Ashley era of Newcastle United. The sporting goods billionaire, who purchased the club in 2007, is far from popular with Geordie locals. Ashley is likely to be looked back on as a resounding failure by fans and pundits alike, having previously stated: "I shan't be selling until [Newcastle win something]." With two relegations during his tenure and an average net spend of only £9.3 million per year, Mike Ashley's exit will be seen to many as long overdue.
News of Steve Bruce's fate is sure to follow, as his future has become shrouded in doubt. Antonio Conte and Eddie Howe are among the names thrown in the ring as potential replacements.
The takeover may have come at the perfect time to prevent the relegation of Newcastle United, with the pessimistic smog enveloping the club finally clearing for the first time in many, many months.