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Opinion

Newcastle United takeover on the rocks as Mike Ashley reaches agreement with Fun88?

3 weeks ago
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Waking up on Monday morning, fans checking the news and social media as always, hoping for an announcement on the Newcastle United takeover.

With the Newcastle United takeover having been with the Premier League for 102 days now, fair to say that it is most definitely hope and not expectation in the minds of supporters.

At 8am on Monday morning there HAS been an official announcement made by the club.

However, this is very definitely NOT the news that Newcastle fans were hoping to hear.

The club have announced that a new deal has been struck with FUN88, with ‘a new long-term commercial agreement’ reached between Mike Ashley and the betting company.

I don”t know about you but this announcement feels like a dagger in the heart with regards to the Newcastle United takeover.

These past three years have seen the club receive a reported £6m a year from FUN88, putting them very much closer to the very lowest levels of shirt sponsor cash. The ‘big six’ obviously are way ahead but the likes of West Ham, Everton and Southampton all have deals worth millions more than Newcastle each season. Very difficult to believe FUN88 are paying much, if anything, more than the £6m per year they have done for three seasons.

The club announcement (see below) predictably doesn’t mention actual figures, as is always the case, BUT they don’t even claim this is a brilliant new deal, not even saying it is any extra money. ‘New record breaking NUFC sponsorship deal’ would be the usual, not difficult considering the lowly brands that Mike Ashley has brought to St James Park.

With the Saudi PIF as imminent new owners, the expectation was that shirt sponsorship would be a key thing when they took over at Newcastle United.

That it would be perfect timing with the FUN88 one coming to an end, with their connections the Saudi PIF expected to bring with them a shirt sponsor paying tens of millions per year.

With FFP (Financial Fair Play) rules, a far more lucrative shirt sponsor a massive help in new owners being able to spend as much as possible to claw back ground lost under Mike Ashley.

It is deeply worrying because with the Newcastle United takeover, this new FUN88 deal has no positive connotations.

It very definitely doesn’t suggest that any announcement of the takeover going ahead will be made in the near future.

Worse than that, are we now having to brace ourselves for the next announcement being that the takeover if dead in the water?

The only semi-positive spin I can come up with, is that the Newcastle United takeover is still expected to go ahead sometime BUT that in the meantime a shirt sponsor was needed now, for the shirts (ones for players and replica ones for fans) and other branding for the 2020/21 season which is widely reported to be set to kick off in less than eight weeks on 12 September 2020.

Why though would it be announced as a ‘long-term’ rather than one year deal?

Again, trying to look for positives, maybe that could just be for appearances sakes and of course there could be secret clauses within the agreement. With even the possibility of the new Saudi PIF owners compensating FUN88 and bringing in their own sponsor, if they did finally complete this Newcastle United takeover.

However, on this Monday morning, very difficult to feel anything but further concerns.

As things stand, we are heading into the 2020/21 PL season with not just FUN88 still here but also Mike Ashley.

Newcastle United official announcement:

Newcastle United are delighted to confirm that FUN88 will remain as the club’s primary partner after a new long-term commercial agreement was reached.

As part of the new agreement, FUN88 – which has been a familiar sight on first team kit since summer 2017 – will continue to feature on the front of players’ shirts and training wear.

Established in Asia in 2008, FUN88 has a significant online following around the world and offers sports betting, live casinos, slots and keno games in multiple languages.

The brand has also developed a popular presence on social media with Newcastle United fans, with thousands of Magpies supporters interacting with its accounts and many benefitting from its competitions and ticket and shirt giveaways over the last three years.

Lee Charnley, Newcastle United’s managing director, said: “We are delighted FUN88 has renewed its relationship with Newcastle United and committed its support to the club over a number of years to come.

“Building on the success of our partnership to date, we look forward to this next phase and working together to engage fans and grow our collective reach around the globe.”

A FUN88 spokesperson said: “FUN88 is delighted to continue its association with Newcastle United Football Club.

“Together with the club, we live the dream of expanding our fan base across all continents, especially in Asia.

“FUN88 is optimistic that this partnership will assist us in becoming the leading gaming and entertainment platform in countries across the world.”

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