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Saudi shake-up: How the Newcastle takeover will send shockwaves through football

Saudi shake-up: How the Newcastle takeover will send shockwaves through football
With a Saudi-led consortium edging closer to a takeover of Newcastle United from Mike Ashley, there are serious questions as to how their arrival will alter the football landscape, not just in Britain but worldwide.

A club the size of Newcastle United won’t come cheap, but the bid from the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), led by “Britain’s most glamorous financier” Amanda Staveley, unsurprisingly has money in spades, even in the most uncertain economic time for decades. At a cost of some £300 million (US$370), the controversial buyout would spell not just a revolution on Tyneside, but also a shift around the soccer world with major players, clubs and authorities affected. 

OVERSPENDING

As seen with the Abu Dhabi purchase of Manchester City in 2008, it takes astronomical amounts of cash to make a splash in football. In order to attract the talent needed to revolutionize a brand as staid as Newcastle, the Saudis will need to pay over the odds for players and managers, which can have a knock-on effect on the market worldwide. 

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While current manager Steve Bruce is a relatively safe (if uninspiring) pair of hands, according to reports the man in demand for the role at St James’ Park is former Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino, at an eye-watering salary of £19 million per year. He would no-doubt demand significant investment on the playing side in order to make the Geordies competitive again, with the likes of Gareth Bale, Philip Coutinho, Edinson Cavani and Antoine Griezmann all linked with possible mega-money moves to the North East. 

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THE HUMAN RIGHTS ISSUE 

A greenlighting of the takeover from the Premier League will mean PIF passing the fit-and-proper persons test - and with protests coming from all angles over the alleged involvement of the Saudi government in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, if successful it would surely open the door to takeover bids from individuals or organizations who previously didn’t think they stood a chance of feeding at the Premier League trough. 

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Lawyers acting on behalf of Khashoggi’s fiancee have requested the Premier League block the takeover, and that in itself could add potential legal proceedings to the deal.

It also means a moral quandary for Newcastle United fans - having demanded an end to the exhaustive Ashley regime for several years, they are faced with being owned and run by representatives of a country that is very different to their own. 

While the prospect of success and Galactico signings might assuage some, others are likely to be vocal in their concerns. It remains to be seen how potential sponsors might react, although it would spell an end to the Ashley-owned Sports Direct branding that dominates the stadium. 

ANOTHER SEAT AT THE TOP TABLE 

Put simply, money talks. As the Qatari takeover of Paris Saint Germain proved in 2012, being a State-owned club with seemingly endless riches buys you an awful lot in football - and the likes of Real Madrid, Manchester United, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Liverpool, Manchester City, Juventus and PSG themselves may well have to get used to Newcastle United becoming a major force in world football. 

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If they do what they’re capable of, and if the city can muster enough pull with some world-class talent, then Newcastle certainly have the fan base and the stadium to back their new found status up. 

FINANCIAL FAIR PLAY 

FFP has been with us for almost a decade now, but is no less controversial than when it was first introduced as a method of preventing clubs from spending more money than they had. Since then, both teams subject to takeovers from the Middle East in the shape of Manchester City and PSG have fallen foul of FFP and there is little doubt that the funds likely to be funneled in to Newcastle United would be under enormous scrutiny - failing the test can mean punishments like a ban from European competition like the two-year one handed to Manchester City earlier this season.

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With the current limit on spending yet to be decided by UEFA, it will be interesting to see how a Saudi takeover ties in and what that would mean for spending by other clubs.

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