By Tony Attwood
Obviously Newcastle United are not the first club to have been bought either by a state, or by a person with access to the massive funds of a state. Although it is probably the first club to be bought and then generate the lines in a national newspaper:
Infuriating tracksuit vendor v blood-stained dictatorship.
Zero-hours sport-shop contracts v beheading 37 people in a single day.
The man in charge of the money was also, it seems, “personally responsible for ordering the murder of a Saudi citizen who was dismembered,” (said The Guardian).
So what do we know about the country that now owns Newcastle United?
It is a land in which homosexuality is punished via public whipping and then chemical castration. So will Newcastle United be engaged with Rainbow Laces day?
Saudi Arabia is also a country where discrimination is written into law. Does that matter?
Each club in deals like this is bought for specific reasons: Manchester City for example was purchased to allow Etihad Airways to develop its base in Manchester and to make “Visit Abu Dhabi” a credible campaign. Chelsea was bought to ease the habilitation into English society of its owner (a policy that failed, we may note) and Liverpool like Arsenal were purchased to make money – not specifically from the football club but from the multiple activities that surround the club.
I imagine Farhad Moshiri (who was of course a shareholder in Arsenal through Red and White Holdings) bought Everton for the same reasons.
So now the big six is going to become the big seven: Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United, Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur. Just at the time when seven places are available as an entry point for Europe. All the clubs have missed out on a few occasions in the attempts to claim a spot, but most of the time the big six scrambled in one way or another. Fortunate that the European Conference League is now in place.
But there is another point: there are only three domestic trophies, and three non-domestic trophies each year. At least one, and more than likely several, clubs are going to be disappointed each year. Although as long as they dominate the agenda they probably won’t mind too much, although I am not sure I would want to be a Newcastle player who would earn the displeasure of the owner. I wonder how PSG and Real Madrid will respond.
Transfer Market gave an interesting breakdown of the estimated value of each club just before Newcastle were purchased, although I can’t find a detailed explanation of how the valuations are worked out.
That list is below. And I wonder, is Leicester City, whose top level trophy list is smaller than the personal major trophy attainment of six of Arsenal’s managers actually worth just £14m less than Arsenal?
|Total value of all clubs:||£8.17bn|
|11||West Ham United||£318.83m|
|13||Brighton & Hove Albion||£231.30m|
*Valuation before the purchase by Saudi Arabia.
As we can see above, the valuation on Leicester City is just £14m below that of Arsenal.
As for Newcastle, “They may as well put Bin Salman’s picture on the club’s emblem. It is now more apparent than ever that English football will sell itself to anyone, no matter how abhorrent their crimes, if they offer up enough money.
“I don’t think people really understand the corrupting influence that this deal will have. It normalises a dictator who literally goes around butchering journalists,” said the piece in the Guardian.
The Newcastle United Supporters Trust welcomed the news of the sale, describing it as “the first real hope for many years”. However as of this morning it’s website still has the phrases, “We’re raising money to buy a share in NUFC” and “This club is our club”. I guess their fans will be hoping that their players are a little niftier than the people running that website.
Thus Manchester City, Chelsea and Newcastle United are now owned by people who some in the UK would consider to be highly undesirable aliens. I imagine it won’t be long before that number grows.
And as for that opening question – what does it mean for Arsenal? Well, as I pointed out, there are now seven members in the big six – and one could add the pretenders of Leicester who are also knocking on the door.
Let’s hope that the rather clever ploys of Mr Arteta, that we have been noting since the end of last year, really do deliver what they promise.
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