One of the most riveting aspects of the English Premier League, and top tier elite football in general, is the big money geopolitics that drives it. It’s fascinating to follow the super-clubs, ultra-rich players at the highest stakes of tables, like Manchester City, Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and others.
It’s all covered in my new book: “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Refined Soccer in America.” Today, the big boy table saw someone else pull up a chair- Newcastle United, which was sold by Mike Ashley to Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, in a £300m deal.
In a statement, the Public Investment Fund governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan said:
“We are extremely proud to become the new owners of Newcastle United, one of the most famous clubs in English football. We thank the Newcastle fans for their tremendously loyal support over the years and we are excited to work together with them.”
For context, the Saudi Arabian PIF is worth 320 billion GBP. Manchester City’s Owner, Sheik Mansour is worth about 23 billion GBP.
It’s pretty safe to say that the Newcastle fans are pretty excited about the new era:
The scenes outside St James’ Park right now
Last minute winner stuff ? pic.twitter.com/cHtn5bxjwC
— COPA90 (@Copa90) October 7, 2021
Considering how dreadful the Magpies really were under Ashley, it’s easy to see why. Take a look at this resume:
(Remember the Geordies are the penultimate side so far this league season. They’ve yet to register a single win in their first seven matches)
Today, really has a European Super League feel to it.
Newcastle's Premier League finishes during the Mike Ashley era:
The only only trophies in 14 years were the two Championship titles. pic.twitter.com/mGF92VanpT
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) October 7, 2021
According to ESPN FC, Thursday’s takeover:
“ends an 18-month deadlock after an agreement was originally reached in April 2020. However, PIF, the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund (state-owned investment), failed to pass the Premier League’s owners’ and directors’ test at the time, creating an impasse which has been resolved following intensive talks in recent weeks.”
Will Newcastle United stave off relegation this season?
What about moving forward- first trophy since 1955? First title since 1927? Well, they have the financial resources now to achieve anything they want.
Of course, this move is controversial, as it should be. And yes, the Newcastle United acquisition is indicative of just how much big money drives everything in world football today, and that is indeed tragic. Especially if you’re a Sunderland fan.
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank, partnered with News Now. Banks, the author of “Transatlantic Passage: How the English Premier League Redefined Soccer in America” and “No, I Can’t Get You Free Tickets: Lessons Learned From a Life in the Sports Media Industry,” has regularly appeared in WGN, Sports Illustrated and the Chicago Tribune.
He co-hosts the After Extra Time podcast. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
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