The takeover of Newcastle United Football Club led by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund was one of the most bizarre ‘nearly’ stories of 2020. Despite numbers being agreed between NUFC owner Mike Ashley and the PIF, the deal never came to be. In late July, official statements from both revealed that a deal was no longer possible, with it now fully off the table.
Given that so many fans in the North-East feel that Ashley has done irreparable harm to Newcastle over his 13 years at the club, it is perhaps unsurprising that Newcastle fans were able to look past the politics on this deal. Fans have been protesting his ownership for years. For locals, any possibility of him being gone and money coming into the city was largely welcomed.
Outside the region however, the deal was met with a lot more fear and resistance. From public petitions, to human rights groups and even several MPs, protests were largely centralised around Saudi Arabia’s recent record of human rights abuse. Ultimately though, it was not this human rights record that scuppered this takeover. In fact, it was seemingly called off because the WTO ruled that representatives of the Saudi state facilitated illegal broadcasts of sport, including some Premier League fixtures.
Although the state denies this, many will see the failed takeover as the right result but for the wrong reasons. Magpies fans on the other hand will still be thinking ‘what could have been’ with the unlimited finances that seemed so close. One thing is certain, we were incredibly close to witnessing the most contentious takeover in Premier League history.