Sports FOOTBALL Newcastle owners from Saudi Arabia surprise with smart revolution

Newcastle owners from Saudi Arabia surprise with smart revolution

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IIt is virtually impossible to listen to a British politician of any stripe long before the phrase “alignment” is in circulation. The only problem is that almost everyone has different ideas about what this supposedly wonderful keynote means, let alone what it entails. The only, extremely uncomfortable, consensus is that no quick fix can fix the UK’s glaring regional economic disparities.

This explains why, back in 2020, more than 80 English MPs of all stripes signed a petition calling on the Premier League to be transparent after it then blocked a proposed takeover of Newcastle United by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund.

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This number included almost the entire composition of deputies representing the north-eastern districts, in the amount of 29 people. Many had serious concerns about Saudi Arabia’s abysmal human rights record, but they also knew that the PIF was promising to invest hundreds of millions of pounds in recovery projects across the partially “forgotten” region.

Not surprisingly, the government tacitly encouraged the highly controversial takeover, which finally closed last October. Or that some of Newcastle’s Premier League peers have proved resilient to a form of uplifting football that promises, after all, to see St James’ Park again as a Champions League venue.

Only so many teams can claim Europe, so it’s no surprise that Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and especially Tottenham remain far from thrilled with the idea that Eddie Howe’s team will break through the ropes separating the VIPs of the Premier League. a corps from the division also rans.

As Chelsea’s new co-owner Todd Boly put it: “With Newcastle coming in, the top six will become the top seven.” Some of his high-ranking colleagues initially hoped that this supposed increase in meritocracy in England’s elite division could be delayed indefinitely due to what they erroneously perceived as poor management of Saudi Arabia’s new kingdom toy.

Newcastle Stadium has not hosted a Champions League match since 2003. Photo: Richard Lee/Shutterstock

Instead, the new hierarchy, at least so far, runs Newcastle with an ultra-smart mindset that was rarely seen during Mike Ashley’s previous penny-stingy, pound-foolish regime. Those who gleefully predicted that financier Amanda Staveley, Newcastle’s co-owner and director in charge of the club’s day-to-day operations, would turn into an all-powerful mess in the January transfer window were left deeply disappointed.

Instead of accelerating the trajectory of a team that was then seemingly heading for relegation by acquiring a group of high-demand former players fueled by self-interest, Staveley confounded the misogynists.

Leading a transformational New Year’s window with the arrival of Kieran Trippier, Dan Bern, Matt Target, Chris Wood and Bruno Guimarães, she ensured the support of all departments of Howe’s first XI.

Miguel Almiron is congratulated on his goal in the pre-season match against Benfica.
Miguel Almiron is congratulated on his goal in the pre-season match against Benfica. Photograph: Serena Taylor/Newcastle United/Getty Images

The erroneous and stereotyped impression that the Stavely bosses in Riyadh and Jeddah were trinket-obsessed Arabs who simply threw money at Newcastle when the team fell apart was quickly dispelled.

Instead, the club, previously known for off-pitch soap operas rather than on-pitch accomplishments, was so devoid of the recent “scandal” that the summer’s most controversial incident was winger Allan Saint-Maximin parking his Ferrari in the coach’s parking lot at training ground. site. .

Howe is the walking, talking opposite of the predecessors who led the crazy days on Toon Planet. While Joe Kinnear cursed profusely with reporters and Alan Pardew headbutted Hull midfielder David Mailer in the middle of the match, the Newcastle manager’s most poignant trait is his slightly evangelical obsession with 1980s band A-ha. “I want other people to hear what I hear,” says the man whose coaching staff lifted a losing team when he replaced Steve Bruce last November to a respectable 11th.

While some colleagues might celebrate by “getting rich” in Dubai, Howe took his wife and three sons on a driving vacation in southern California, where he especially enjoyed the desert tranquility of Joshua Tree National Park.

All the while, his phone has been busy with two eminently sensible new board appointments: director of football Dan Ashworth and chief executive Darren Eales. Ashworth previously worked for Brighton and the Football Association, and the equally respected Eales moved from MLS team Atlanta United to theoretically keep the richest club in the world on the right side of fair play financial constraints.

While Howe has been basking in purchases this summer – by far the most coveted are former Lille defender Sven Botman and former England goalkeeper Nick Pope, though another striker and midfielder are high on the shopping list – Staveley now has time focus on broader initiatives. including turning the Newcastle women’s team into a professional one.

Despite being in the fourth division, Becky Langley’s team is heading one way to the Women’s Super League.

Their debut performance in front of 22,000 spectators at St. James Park last May received a lot of publicity in Saudi Arabia, surprising those who were already stunned to see that the Staveleys had been entrusted with such a high-profile role to overlords in a country that is almost unknown to women. emancipation.

This unexpected advancement of women’s rights can be seen either as genuine attempts to modernize Saudi Arabia or, along with these renaissance projects, as a clever and subtle form of sports washing designed to soften the Kingdom’s image abroad. Maybe both, but at the very least Gary Neville’s fears about the growing north-south division of English football should ease.

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In 2015, a former England full-back turned TV analyst warned that Newcastle were “adrift” due to the game’s “wider economic drift towards London”, musing “Do any of the top players want to leave and live in the northeast?

With Botman choosing Tyneside over Milan and Guimarães claiming Newcastle have more potential than Arsenal, it seems like the Premier League’s most controversial owners have already achieved that form of promotion that politicians can only dream.

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