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Saudi Arabia PIF ownership question – Newcastle United fan gives perfect answer

2 weeks ago
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The Newcastle United pre-season is all but gone.

We are asking various regular / irregular Mag writers a number of questions ahead of this 2022/23 Premier League season,

The idea to get a wide range of views ahead of this Newcastle United campaign.

A snapshot of what various fans are thinking about what might lie ahead of us all…as well as reflecting on various other NUFC issues.

Next up we have  Davey Hat-Trick answering a few…

If somebody asks you whether you are concerned about having Saudi Arabian ownership, what is your reply?

Of course I’m concerned. The Saudi government subjugates women, executes homosexuals and murders journalists it doesn’t like. They drop bombs on Yemeni civilians and they don’t allow anyone to vote. It’s an absolute monarchy that is medieval in its repression of free speech and liberty.

In the unlikely event of the ownership of Newcastle United wishing to talk to me, I’d be happy to tell them that, as long as I was nowhere near the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or one of their embassies.

But I first saw Newcastle United play in 1965 when they were in the old second division and I’ve watched the team over 1,000 times since. I’ve spent tens of thousands of pounds supporting my team, and a lot of what I got back in return, didn’t represent value for money. I don’t see why I should stop now.

I’d also say that if those fans, pundits and journalists who use the ownership as a stick with which to beat Newcastle fans can provide evidence of their lifelong opposition to the Saudi regime, then I’ll listen to them. If they have been equally vocal in their condemnation of Boris Johnson and his predecessors – who sell them the bombs they drop on Yemen – then fair play. If they have written letters to the British Royal Family to ask them why they take Saudi money and roll out the red carpet for their counterparts in the Kingdom, then they can have a go at me.

However, if they suddenly developed a dislike for the Saudi government when the PIF took over NUFC, then they are arrivistes and they can carry on shouting into the void.

Finally, if our critics want to see change, then maybe the KSA’s relationship with the biggest sporting competition on the planet is a good thing.

Perhaps the increased scrutiny will lead to the softening of some of the more brutal aspects of the regime. I don’t believe it’s going to make things worse.

Not long until the Premier League season kicks off, how happy are you with where Newcastle are currently at ahead of the season?

No squad will ever be perfect, but I trust our management to get things right, and it’s over a decade since I said that. I’m happy with the signings, especially Darren Eales and Dan Ashworth.

I know there are some idiots who think we should be signing everyone available but I’ll be satisfied with evolution over revolution. It’s good that we value a player’s character as well as his skill and it’s good that we aren’t allowing the club to be gouged on price. We are building something good, and one day we’ll have built something special. I expect this season to be better than last, even if we don’t sign another player.

I like that communication with the fanbase has improved (I’m happy it started!), I’m relaxed and a bit excited about what is to come. Again, that’s a feeling I haven’t felt in a good long while

What do you predict Eddie Howe’s team to be against Nottingham Forest?

I’d guess Pope, Trippier, Botman, Schär, Targett, Bruno, Joelinton, Willock, ASM, Miggy, Wilson. Maybe Fraser for Miggy…

What is the minimum capacity Newcastle United need moving forward and what is the ideal capacity for the future?

80,000. Maybe even 90,000. Build it and they will come.

If that minimum can’t be achieved at St James Park, are you in favour of building a new stadium on another site?

Big question. 65% no, 35% yes.

I’m selfish about wanting to see my team in the city centre. I want to have a few drinks with my mates pre- and post-match, and only have a seven-minute walk between bar and ground. I like that there are a hundred places fans can go to eat, drink, be merry within striking distance of the stadium. And of course it’s a great thing for the local economy. But I also acknowledge that there is huge local interest in Newcastle United, and that we need a much bigger stadium.

If it came to pass that we had to move, I’d accept it, but I’d like to think every architect, civil engineer and local politician exhausted the SJP options – even the outlandish ones – before we did.

What is the fairest way to sell season tickets, who, if anybody, should get priority?

I’m not sure I would sell any more season tickets. It would mean thousands of people being permanently or semi-permanently excluded. If you have one now, fair enough, but if you haven’t, then I don’t think you are any more deserving than anyone else.

My (admittedly messy) solution would be to have a ballot for matches. You go into a pot at the start of the season, and you are allocated your share of home games. If you get to four or five, it’s better than none.

The caveat I have is that I’d hate SJP – or any new iteration of SJP – to become like Old Trafford, for example. So many seats there seem to be corporate, that the atmosphere belies the stadium capacity. The Man Utd away contingent makes more noise than just about any other when they come to SJP, but whenever I’ve been away at OT, the Geordies have outsung them. Half the ‘home’ contingent is more preoccupied with taking selfies than watching the game, and the only time the place comes to life is when they score. We have a unique atmosphere at Newcastle United. Any decision on tickets or stadium capacity should work to enhance that, not dilute it.

Nick Pope or Martin Dúbravka?

At £10m, Pope is a bargain. We had to buy him at that price. We could double our money if we sold him before the Forest game. In all honesty, I don’t see him as a massive upgrade on Dúbravka, but I do think he is an improvement on Darlow et al. In truth, I don’t really mind who starts between Pope and Dúbravka.

What is your prediction for the final 2022/23 Premier League table, which positions all 20 clubs will end the season?

Well, I don’t buy the ‘big six’ idea. It suggests all six teams are interchangeable.

I think we have a big two, a worthy – but distant – third place (ownership upheavals notwithstanding), then a long peloton. If I had to guess, it would go…

1 Man City
2 Liverpool
3 Chelsea
4 Spurs
5 Arsenal
6 manure
7 NUFC
8 Wolves
9 West Ham
10 Palace
11 Villa
12 Brighton
13 Leicester
14 Leeds
15 Saints
16 Forest
17 Everton
18 Brentford
19 Bournemouth
20 Fulham

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