Newcastle Utd fans hail Saudi-led takeover

·3-min read

A Saudi Arabian-led consortium has completed its purchase of Premier League club Newcastle United as a long-running takeover saga finally reached the conclusion the majority of the club's supporters desired.

Fourteen months after Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) withdrew a Stg 305 million ($A570 million) bid to buy the English north-east club from owner Mike Ashley following the Premier League's failure to give regulatory approval, a deal was announced after a day of mounting excitement on Tyneside.

After the Premier League confirmed the struggling club had been sold to a consortium consisting of PIF, PCP Capital Partners and RB Sports & Media with immediate effect, fans began celebrating outside the St James' Park stadium on Thursday.

A statement from Yasir Al-Rumayyan, governor of PIF who will become non-executive chairman of Newcastle, said: "We are extremely proud to become the new owners of Newcastle United, one of the most famous clubs in English football."

The takeover, put together by PCP Capital Partners' chief executive Amanda Staveley, ends an unhappy era at St James' Park and means Newcastle will become one of the world's richest clubs.

A rapid sequence of events reignited the deal after Qatar-based broadcaster beIN Sports, a Premier League rights holder, said on Wednesday that Saudi Arabia would lift a ban on it and also shut down illegal streaming services, removing a major obstacle behind the collapsed takeover.

Another stumbling block was overcome when the Premier League, who came under pressure to block the deal last year, received "legally binding" assurances that there was clear separation between PIF and the Saudi Arabia state, despite PIF being chaired by the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The fate of Newcastle coach Steve Bruce will be high on the agenda of the new owners, who are keen to invest in the club.

Hundreds of Newcastle's 'Toon Army' supporters, who have protested against Ashley's running of the club, gathered outside the stadium in the drizzle throughout the day, buoyed by news of the imminent takeover.

Others, though, said it was just another example of Saudi Arabia "sportswashing".

PIF - Saudi Arabia's $US430 billion ($A590 billion) sovereign wealth fund - is at the centre of plans to transform the economy by diversifying revenues away from oil.

The country has increasingly sought high-profile sports assets, including signing a 10-year deal to stage F1 and hosting Anthony Joshua's heavyweight title fight in 2019.

Amnesty UK chief executive, Sacha Deshmukh said that the Saudi authorities were "sportwashing their appalling human rights record with the glamour of top-flight football."

Saudi Arabia's government denies allegations of human rights abuses and says it is protecting national security from extremists and external actors.

Newcastle fans hope the takeover will herald a new era like that at Manchester City who've dominated English football since being bought by Abu Dhabi's Sheikh Mansour in 2008.

The takeover ends the 14-year ownership of Ashley whose stewardship has been deeply unpopular, with the supporters accusing him of under-investment and lack of ambition.

Since Ashley bought the sleeping giants, who last won a domestic trophy in 1955 and have not been top-flight champions since 1927, they have twice been relegated from the Premier League and have not finished higher than 10th since 2012. Another relegation battle is looming.

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