The owners of billionaires have changed European football – can a new investor revive a sleeping giant?


Global investment

(CNN) – European football is no stranger to billionaire owners, and the latest investor with deep pockets who has shown interest in acquiring the team has stirred up the English Premier League while falling asleep during coronavirus failure.

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), chaired by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is part of a three-member consortium an attempt to buy Newcastle United, Other partners include PCP Capital Partners, a venture capital and private equity company run by British businesswoman Amanda Staveley, and private equity and real estate company Reuben Brothers.

For Newcastle fans, the proposed download news is late with the change.

After 13 years owned by Mike Ashley, a British businessman who runs the Sports Direct retail brand, it feels like the club is starved investments for too long.

Sports Direct brands can be seen in St. James Park during the match between Newcastle and Tottenham, April 19, 2015. Newcastle fans are known to boycott the matches in protest against the ownership of Mike Ashley. Credit: Richard Lee / BPI / Shutterstock

Newcastle, a powerful force in English football during the 1990s, suffered two relegations under Ashley’s tenure. The decision to rename the club stadium into the Sports Direct Arena in 2011 also met with outrage from fans.

Hostility to the Ashley regime probably explains why a Newcastle United Supporters Trust poll in April found that 96.7% of more than 3,977 fans surveyed favored the new ownership group, which PCP is facing.

Newcastle fans are protesting against the ownership of Mike Ashley ahead of the Premier League game against Leicester City in September 2018. Credits: Mark Runnacles / Getty Images

The hope is that the new owners will invest more money in the club and take Newcastle to the top of English football.

The takeover has been struggling with other investors for months supposedly interested in buying a club. Before the takeover takes over, any successful bid must pass the test of the owner and director of English football.

“If fans have faith in the owners, then that’s what builds trust and builds time,” says Kieran Maguire, a university lecturer on football finance and author of The Price of Football for CNN Sport.

“That it was me [as a new owner], the focus would be on strategy, on a football director who could say, “This is the way Newcastle United is going forward, it will be our style of play in collaboration with the manager.”

“It’s a boring thing, it’s an auxiliary office, business operations that I would contact first. Fans are asking for the brand’s signature [but] I would say that just signing for the sake of signing is a way of spending money. “

Chelsea and Manchester City have set a trend to court the signatures of big names after the takeover of Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich and Abu Dhabi ruler Sheikh Mansour.

In particular, Abu Dhabi United Group (ADUG) quickly threw money at the City. Maguire says the club spent £ 62m ($ 77m) on transfers in 2008, the summer after taking over as Sheikh Mansour, which included breaking the British transfer record in buying the Brazilian striker Robinho.

That was roughly 12 times more than the club had spent the previous year, and City’s player spending had only grown in the years that followed.

Two seasons later, all similar David Silva, Yaya Touré, Mario Balotelli and Edin Džeko were all arrested because, according to Maguire, £ 165 million ($ 204 million) wasted in 2011 transfers; the season after that came Sergio Aguero, who helped deliver City his first league title in more than 40 years dramatic fashion.

“Wealthier clubs are known to be more successful in the long run than their rivals with fewer resources,” Simon Gleave, head of sports analysis at data firm Gracenote, told CNN Sport.

“When the current owners took full control in 2008, Manchester City was outside the top 20 richest clubs and not among the six richest teams in England.

“The investment the owners have made has made Manchester City competitive in the transfer market with the best English clubs, improving the team to a point that could regularly challenge trophies.”

Gleave also notes that City were named the 68th best team in Europe when ADUG took over Gracenote’s Euro Club index, which ranked all European football clubs based on competition results over a four-year period.

The club has since increased its top command under several different managers, before gaining first place under Pep Guardiola in 2019.

Today, the chances of Newcastle fitting into the way of spending that encouraged City to succeed are far removed given the constraints that football clubs must adhere to.

Sergio Aguero, who scored the winning goal against QPR while Man City secured the Premier League title in dramatic circumstances, lifted the trophy at the Etihad Stadium in May 2012. Credits: Shaun Botterill / Getty Images

In the Premier League, the club can make losses of up to $ 130 million over three seasons and $ 33 million during UEFA competitions. UEFA adopted its one-year regulations on Thursday due to Covid-19.

The latter regulations on financial fair play (FFP) will not apply immediately to Newcastle, but the club will need to be fair if it wants to compete in Europe in the near future as UEFA checks date back three years.

“If you look at both Manchester City and Chelsea when they were bought by Sheikh Mansour and Abramovich, the initial transfer policy was scattered and it was very hit and missed,” Maguire says.

“The advantage that both Chelsea and Manchester City had was that both clubs operated in the pre-financial environment of Fair Play.

“Although I think it’s Newcastle [might] having the opportunity to spend more money than it has so far, they can’t just spend £ 100 million ($ 124 million) and write them off as easily as Chelsea and Manchester City managed to do in the days before financial fair play. “

Money spent on stadium infrastructure, a club academy, a women’s team or social projects falls outside the spending limit. Abu Dhabi city owners have managed to invest in a modern state academy stadium and training rooms around the Etihad Stadium.

The Man City players are training ahead of the 16th round of the Champions League against Real Madrid in February this year. The training center opened in 2014 as part of a regeneration project that transformed East Manchester. Credit: Alex Livesey / Getty Images

“Like all new owners coming, it will be important [Newcastle] they have the right people to give them the right advice to make sure they spend their money as smartly as possible … to maximize every pound they invest, ”sports lawyer Daniel Geey told CNN Sport.

“Anyone who expects owners to come in even with very deep pockets and spend like, for example, Roman Abramovich, or Sheikh Mansour did it with Manchester City – I think those days are a little behind the Premier League.”

“In the case of Newcastle, it wipes its face. It’s a financially well-run club.”

Kieran Maguire

Newcastle could also benefit from Ashley’s thrifty ownership if a new consortium buys the club.

“Had he been pretty loose with the cash, it could have been that the new owners would have inherited a club they can just go to and spend an extra £ 20m ($ 24.5m) next season because losses have been so high in the last few years.” , explains Maguire.

“But in the case of Newcastle it erases its face. It’s a financially well-run club. Which means those losses of £ 105 million ($ 130 million), which the new owners are practically available immediately.”

Excessive spending has consequences. The city was banned in the Champions League the next two seasons for violating FFP rules, even though the club declared the allegations “completely false” and appealed the decision. The Sports Arbitration Court is due to announce its decision on the City’s appeal in early July.

Nasser Al-Khelaifi, president of the French side of Paris Saint-Germain, which is owned by the sovereign wealth fund Qatar Sports Investments (QSI), was also explore by UEFA due to illegal consumption.

PSG have won the Ligue 1 title seven times since QSI took control of the club in 2011.

He broke the transfer record by signing Neymar Jr. for $ 263 million from Barcelona in 2017, the same window that Kylian Mbappe joined also from AS Monaco.

Neymar Jr. celebrated with Kylian Mbappé after scoring PSG against Liverpool in the group stage of the Champions League in November 2018. The pair cost the club more than $ 450 million. Credits: Clive Rose / Getty Images

An investigation launched in September 2017 to determine whether PSG had violated FFP regulations was concluded last year when CAS upheld PSG’s appeal in the case.

It is significant that for all their domestic successes neither City nor PSG have reached the same heights in Europe.

The city have lost to English rivals Liverpool and Tottenham in the final eight of the last two seasons, while PSG have fallen in the 16th round in the last three campaigns, never reaching the semi-finals under Qatari owners.

But there is little doubt that a long-term investment in a football club can bring a return, especially in the English Premier League.

City is today part of the City Football Group (CFG), a global network of affiliated clubs that includes teams in the United States, Australia, Japan and Uruguay.

Originally owned only by ADUG, the China Media Capital consortium bought a 13% stake in December 2015 for $ 400 million, while the US private equity giant Silver Lake gained just over 10% of CFG for $ 500 million last year.

“Manchester’s model, which needs to be bought by many clubs around the world, is proving to be useful to them,” says Maguire.

“Right now it is very much the case that Manchester City is the parent and if they identify a good player in Spain or Uruguay, Australia or New York or anywhere else, it could potentially buy Manchester City at a very reasonable price at a price later point in time.

“It’s a good strategy and I think it will bring its rewards in time.”

Of course, the owners of Abu Dhabi have been through the city for 12 years. The Newcastle contract has yet to be processed and has been under close scrutiny since news of a potential change of ownership surfaced.

Amnesty Human Rights Group argued that Saudi Arabia’s interest in Newcastle serves as a “PR tool to deter infamous human rights data in the country,” while Hatice Cengiz, fiancé of the late journalist Jamal Khashoggi, said he would take over the “stain” of the Premier League.

Last month Khashoggi’s children he publicly said goodbye their father’s killers, sparing five government agents the death penalty. In 2018, the CIA concluded that it was bin Salman personally ordered Khashoggi’s assassination, which is the heir to the throne denies.

Qatari media giant beIN Media Group has also expressed concern over the proposed takeover given Saudi Arabia’s alleged role in illegally broadcasting football matches.

INSTALL CEO Yousef Al-Obaidly wrote in the Premier League, alluding to the “direct role” of Saudi Arabia had the “launch, promotion and operation” of the alleged pirate streaming service beoutQ.

Earlier this week World Trade Organization ruled that Saudi Arabia had acted illegally in connection with Operation BeoutQ, a decision welcomed by UEFA.

Under Premier League rules, club owners may be disqualified if they do not pass the Owner and Director test before acquiring the club.

Both Newcastle and the Premier League declined to comment when CNN contacted them regarding the takeover.

PIF and Saudi officials did not respond to multiple requests for comment regarding the takeover and criticism of Amnesty and Cengiz, while the Saudi Ministry of Media did not respond to allegations of piracy.

Whether the new consortium will successfully buy Newcastle hangs in the balance sheet.

Isaac Hayden in Newcastle on January 18 scored the winner’s injury against Chelsea. Credit: Serena Taylor / Newcastle United / Getty Images

If the deal passes, the Magpies are expected to strike above their performances at the midfield in recent seasons. But given the competitive nature of the Premier League, success is unlikely to come quickly or easily.

“I think the new owners will be able to bridge that gap [with the league’s top teams], but part of the reason there is a gap is that other clubs are global brands, ”says Maguire.

“It will take time for Newcastle to expand its influence into a more global sphere. But if they can qualify for Europe on several occasions, then they will become a local club of Saudi Arabia. “

On and off the field, change is safe in the air at Newcastle United.

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