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Q&A on Newcastle United takeover saga

Q&A on Newcastle United takeover saga

A general view of Newcastle United supporters waiting outside the stadium for news of the latest developments in the sale of the club to the Saudi sovereign wealth fund for 300 million-pound ($408 million) takeover in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England Thursday Oct. 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)

Premier League side Newcastle United are close to being taken over by a Saudi Arabian-backed consortium, according to reports in the British media, after a failed attempt in the past. The following is a Q&A on the issues surrounding it.

WHAT HAS HAPPENED SO FAR?

The investment group which included Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund PIF, PCP Capital Partners and Reuben Brothers, made public a 305 million pounds (US$414.25 million) bid to buy United from British businessman Mike Ashley on Apr 9, 2020.

But the proposed takeover collapsed after the group said in July 2020 that they were ending their interest.

The decision followed a lengthy scrutiny process from the league which faced pressure to block the deal due to concerns over alleged broadcast piracy in the Gulf state.

Newcastle began arbitration proceedings against the league, which it accused of acting inappropriately in rejecting the bid, with the matter adjourned until early 2022 due to "issues with the disclosure of evidence".

WHAT HAS CHANGED NOW?

Qatar-based broadcaster beIN Sports said on Wednesday Saudi Arabia will soon lift a ban on it, removing a key obstacle behind the collapsed takeover of United.

beIN holds rights to broadcast the Premier League across the Middle East but Saudi Arabia's General Authority for Competition (GAC) suspended its channels in 2017 and "permanently cancelled" the broadcaster's licence last year amid a dispute between Riyadh and Doha, which was resolved in January.

Saudi Arabia's response to cases of unauthorised broadcasting of Premier League games in the country was a key issue raised by critics of the proposed takeover of the club.

WHAT IS THE CONNECTION BETWEEN PIF AND THE SAUDI STATE?

Saudi Arabia's US$430 billion sovereign wealth fund, PIF is at the centre of plans to transform the economy by creating new sectors and diversifying revenues away from oil. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is the chairman of PIF.

WHAT ABOUT POTENTIAL SAUDI STATE INVOLVEMENT IN RUNNING THE CLUB?

The earlier takeover bid had been criticised by human rights campaigners due to Saudi Arabia's involvement, but British media reported that the PIF will be seen as separate to the state.

Reports added that the Premier League could grant approval for the takeover after the consortium proved the Saudi state would not have control of the club.

WHAT DOES A POTENTIAL TAKEOVER MEAN FOR NEWCASTLE'S MANAGER AND FANS

Newcastle boss Steve Bruce is a boyhood fan of the club but has largely been an unpopular figure among supporters ever since he replaced Spaniard Rafa Benitez in 2019.

Bruce has put on a brave face despite mounting pressure after poor results but said he would not be surprised if he lost his job after a 2-1 league defeat at Wolverhampton Wanderers last weekend stretched their winless start to seven games.

Several managers, including PSG boss Mauricio Pochettino, had been linked with the job at Newcastle since talks of the potential takeover began.

While it is not clear if the potential new owners will ring in the changes immediately, fans will hope for an injection of funds in time to recruit players during the January transfer window.

Source: Reuters

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