At 6 PM GMT, after long discussions and power struggles between the English Premier League and Saudi sovereign wealth fund, the sale of Newcastle United was finally completed, ending a 14-year regime of Mike Ashley at the club. As this news broke out yesterday, Newcastle became the second premier league club to be owned by a Middle Eastern enterprise after Manchester City. It’s safe to say that Manchester City fortunes reversed once they got acquired by the member of the UAE royal family and they are now the crown jewel of the City Football Group’s football club portfolio.
But the elephant in the room needs to be addressed, why a football club, nowhere close to home but thousands of kilometres away, with seemingly no affiliations whatsoever, forms an interesting prospect for people from Asia, that they are willing to not just buy, but improve the club fortunes by pumping in absurd amounts of money.
The Premier League has seen two clubs rise the highest with money from Asia’s mega-rich. Chelsea and Manchester City owners have pumped in billions of dollars into the club and have seen formidable success on the pitch with few Premier League titles and luckily for Chelsea, two Champions League titles in the last 10 years, not bad, eh?
Middle East countries are not known for their liberalism, as we witness in Western Nations, there have been numerous instances in history which signal a dark side of the nations. There have been two major investments by Middle East countries in European football, Man City and PSG, owned by the riches of UAE and Qatar respectively. The acquisitions, apparently, were made to promote a progressive, western friendly and stable avenue in terms of life in the countries.
The truth, however, is far from it. James Montague in his book The Billionaires Club explains how these countries use “Reputation Laundering” to clean up the portrayal of human rights abuses surrounding them. Have they been successful in it? James does believe so.
Which Man City fan will complain about the owners revamping the club or taking them miles ahead of where they were in 2008? Not one. In return, UAE has had intangible benefits, a positive outlook and ever-increasing popularity for a number of reasons.
We are sure Newcastle fans woke up with a smile on their face, most of them loved the club but not the frugal owner, Mike Ashley. Some are happy to see wealthy owners in anticipation of the spending spree they might go on, on the other hand, some are just happy to see Ashley’s back.
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has distanced itself from controlling the club but we all know cash is there, whether the owners will splash the cash or is it just another expensive toy for the new owners, only time can tell. Newcastle fans cannot resist their happiness now, they cannot wait to go back to St James’ Park, the stadium atmosphere is going to be electric after the international break. How many head scarves are we going to see in the stadium? Let us know.