WITH the world set to be their oyster, the moral dilemma facing Newcastle fans is stark.
Get on board with a £300million Saudi-led takeover and go on the ride of a lifetime, or speak out against a pariah state that still beheads its citizens?
De facto Saudi Arabian ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman chairs the Public Investment Fund, which will own 80 per cent.
Amanda Staveley and the billionaire Reuben brothers will split the rest.
And the reaction from the club’s supporters’ trust survey is 96.7 per cent of the 3,400 respondents back the takeover.
Professor Simon Chadwick, from the Centre for the Eurasian Sport Industry, said: “The new owners will need their loyalty and support, who will give it economic and political legitimacy. Fans need to decide themselves how comfortable or not they feel about it.”
With a moral maze facing supporters, SunSport weighs up the issues at play.
NO MORE ASHLEY
Supporters have been desperate for Ashley to sell up for most of his 13 joyless years on Tyneside.
With more relegations than European finishes, the Toon Army can see some light.
Didier Domi donned the famous black and white more than 50 times from 1998 and is now a freelance pundit who works for various networks including beIN SPORTS — the Qatari broadcaster trying to derail the takeover.
He said: “The potential is now limitless and the fans deserve it.
“Sometimes you have strong fans but don’t feel they can lead you to the top. Newcastle is another story.
“Rather than battling to avoid relegation, I hope the Saudis revive the true spirit of Newcastle.
“If clever they’ll be back where they belong, just as they were with the likes of Kevin Keegan, David Ginola and Les Ferdinand.”
Since takeover rumours surfaced in January, #announcembappe has been prominent on Twitter. Michael Owen’s £17million arrival in 2005 remained a club record fee for 14 years — but now they are set to be dining at the top table.
The PIF have around £260billion in assets and hope to reach two trillion dollars by 2030.
Kylian Mbappe may be a step too far for now but Edinson Cavani, Antoine Griezmann, and Philippe Coutinho have already been linked.
But will the cream of the crop shun London’s bright lights for the north-east?
Domi, who arrived aged 20 from Paris Saint-Germain said: “There’s a misunderstanding that it is not a nice place.
“When I was there I told people in France to come over and they realised how nice the atmosphere was. If they feel it is a good team with the right people and motivation, it won’t be a problem.”
BENEFIT TO WIDER LOCAL AREA
As well as earmarking cash for the training ground and academy, investment in the region’s infrastructure is central to plans.
The Reubens own swathes of property in Newcastle and the long-term benefit to the area is a cornerstone of the vision.
Chadwick said: “Staveley has talked about development of the north-east and that’s a really seductive way to present the package.
“If they can generate any economic stimulus that can benefit the region then there will be people in places like Sunderland and Middlesbrough saying, ‘great, there’s more jobs going now’.
“This is nothing new. Look at what Abu Dhabi have done in Manchester and Qatar have done in Paris as owners of PSG. Owning a football club allows you to get to local decision-makers very quickly.”
DEAL WITH THE DEVIL?
On the same day documents were lodged with Companies House, the 800th execution in Saudi Arabia since 2015 was announced.
And Thursday was the one-year anniversary of the mass killing of 37 people.
Maya Foa, director of human rights organisation Reprieve, told SunSport: “The Premier League should judge Saudi Arabia’s rulers by their actions, not their words.
“In 2018, Mohammed Bin Salman toured the US, posing as a reformer and promising to ‘minimise’ executions.
“In fact, last year the Kingdom executed more people than ever, including several for the ‘crime’ of taking part in demonstrations as children.
“The idea that buying into top-flight English football will make the regime any less repressive is wishful thinking.”
NOT ANOTHER MAN CITY
The PIF and Staveley plan to turn Newcastle into a dominant force both at home and abroad.
After Sheikh Mansour bought Manchester City in 2008, it took four years and hundreds of millions to win the league.
And while Toon fans may not want to hear it, patience is the key word.
Chadwick said: “I wouldn’t anticipate a massive spending spree.
“The global economic conditions will constrain them and they just won’t be able to lavish the same levels of money the likes of City and PSG have.”
Domi added: “They need time and supporters have to be patient.
“It’s not all about money if you don’t know how to spend it. I hope the potential new owners pick the right people to run the club — this is the most important thing.
“At City, Pep Guardiola is the main man but with Txiki Begiristain and the other guys you see the chemistry. Newcastle have to find that.”
IS SAUDI ECONOMY TANKING?
After a spending spree across a host of industries, the collapsing oil price because of coronavirus has left the Saudi economy teetering.
Chadwick said: “They’ve overburdened themselves and the last thing they needed was Covid-19.
“They’ve accumulated such debts and their financial projection has been shot to pieces.
“When the oil price falls there is usually a big round of cuts.
“They have already said they will dramatically cut the budgets of all professional football clubs in the country — a clear indication of constraints introduced.
“There is less money in the pot than people imagine there is.”
Source: Read Full Article