Priorities in football: two utterly different views

By Tony Attwood

The Guardian has an interesting piece: “Newcastle United: seven priorities for the potential new owners” in which it takes a pragmatic view of what the new owners at Newcastle will do.  It comes in a series of headlines, all of which are valid from one rather narrow point of view

  • Make a decision about Bruce’s managerial future
  • Rebuild the squad
  • Reconnect with fans and strengthen communication
  • Boost commercial revenues
  • Create a new infrastructure
  • Invest in the women’s team
  • Win a first trophy since the Fairs Cup in 1969

And yes the new owners might well do all of these.   But these are not the priorities.  These are the mechanisms, and I am mentioning them, because the priorities of Newcastle are not only completely different but because they will shake English and European football, just as Manchester City and PSG have shaken European football.

Think of Manchester City.  Their priority might seem to be winning trophies.  But that is not the priority of the club.  That is the defeat of Uefa, not because they want to be in Europe, but because no one is allowed to criticise the rulers, who are absolute, total and perfect.  No one is allowed to defeat the owner.  The owner is the Supreme Ruler.  You only have to look at the hacked emails to see just what sort of reality the owners of the club have.

So what are the priorities of the new Newcastle United?

  1. To get into the Champions League so that Saudi Arabia has a team in the CL to support.
  2. To start winning things which will reflect well on Saudi Arabia.
  3. To beat Manchester City in the Premier League and PSG in the Champions League.

Which raises the question, how they do that?

The answer there is to have the best team of players possible, and the best manager possible, with the best facilities possible.  Some of this can be done quickly, since there will be no shortage of finance for new training facilities, medical facilities and the like, and they have the money to buy anyone they want.

But this in term raises some difficulties for they will have to…

  1. Avoid any of the petty difficulties Manchester City have had in terms of Premier League and Uefa control over their finances.
  2. Make sure that no matter what they do they won’t fall foul of any Premier League or Uefa Financial Fair Play regulations
  3. Have a compliant media not asking any difficult questions about Saudi Arabia and its human rights record.  After all if Saudi Arabia were an employer in the UK, its attitude towards people would have it in court every day of the week.
  4. Have no questions raised about its relationship with referees, Premier League officials, broadcasters and the like.

Indeed the more we look at this, the more it is clear how important it will be for Newcastle to have the media on their side, which means having the media talk not about the owners and their attitude towards other people, but rather to have them talk about issues that don’t get near such matters, or in the case of Manchester City at least until the emails were revealed, questions about where the money is coming from.

So what will the new Newcastle press machine be directing our attention towards in the coming months and years?

First, the manager.  This is nice and simple, because it is what the media talk about a lot.  Change the manager.  Get in a big name. No Bruce is an ok honourable guy.  No we deserve the best…  That should run for months

Second, transfers.  The players are clearly good enough for mid-table, but that is not good enough for the new Newcastle, who want to win things.  So new players are going to be needed, and the best way to avoid talking about the cost, is to build up a multiplicity of transfer rumours to deflect attention.

Third, the fans.  If Newcastle fans can be considered to be long-suffering, if an emphasis can be put on how football-fanatical the fans are, how much in love with football the city is, then that will be a good story to run and run.

So to do this, then there needs to be a lot of communication with the fans and the media.

Now the big question that is left is the money.  Clearly it is going to come pouring in from Saudi Arabia, just as Manchester City’s money comes pouring in from unheard of companies in Abu Dhabi.  So there will need to be an emphasis on local links, sponsorship from UK firms – anything like that will help.

Distractions will also be helpful.  Building a stadium for their under 23s and women’s team will be highlighted with lots of talk about the money pouring into the region.  They can also buy new women to play in step four of the women’s leagues, and get promotion each season.  That will soak up a lot of publicity and can be done without spending any big money.

And then Newcastle United’s men’s team can win something which they last did in 1969.

So that’s how the publicity will be handled, and it is strange, looking back at the Guardian article – that is exactly what it is talking about.  Nothing about controlling the Financial Fair Play budget.  Nothing about the awful human rights record of Saudi Arabia, or its restrictions on women.  Funny that, for the Guardian.  But still, this is football.  Different rules apply.




3 Replies to “Priorities in football: two utterly different views”

  1. Tony………there are some elephants in the room as we say across the pond;

    1) FFP will certainly keep an eye on the Saudis and may intervene like they did with City,

    2) The current crisis with oil prices is severly restricting the Saudis ability to invest huge sums of money in sports or other ventures, but that may change in the medium to long term,

    3) Will the Saudis pass the proper and fit test for ownership of an EPL club, that is the shortest hurdle they have to overcome as a pile of cash placed in front of it will see them through such considerations.

    4) There will be NO shortage of ready and willing mercenaries of international calibre to join Newcastle and the fans,supporters and management staff will rejoice at the idea of pulling a City.

  2. Quite a suprise to see some new money flowing in at a time when most are being cautious and/or reexamining their financial position .
    Of course those who have money to spare , or have a never ending supply , may find it a great time to buy , if the price is considered cheap, or a bargain.

    Am sure that the Newcastle fans must be buoyant with this change of owners , after wanting fresh investments for a long time. Best of luck to them.

  3. More opinions about City’s owners that you cannot prove and yet on the post about Ozil you criticise others for doing the same. You are blind to your agenda, conventional wisdom and passive aggressive xenophobia.

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