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Saudi Arabia PIF could now dispose of Newcastle United and buy Manchester United – New Report

1 year ago
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Back in 2019, it was widely reported that Manchester United had been targeted by the Saudi Arabia PIF, or potentially some other purchase that would involve Saudi Arabia ownership.

Nothing came of that, with it claimed the Glazers had only offered a 20% stake to Saudi Arabia PIF / Saudi prospective investors, or indeed any others interested in investing.

Manchester United are now up for sale, the whole lot of it.

In the meantime of course, Saudi Arabia PIF bought a controlling interest in Newcastle United, an 80% stake with the Reubens brothers buying 10% and Amanda Staveley owning the other 10%.

That end result coming only at the end of what had been lengthy process, before the new owners were passed by the Premier League, with seemingly the key factor having been the settling of TV piracy claims against Saudi Arabia by Bein Sports.

Moving quickly forward, late November saw a very interesting interview with the Saudi Arabia Sports Minister.

BBC Sport getting the chance to quiz Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal on any number of topics in a wide ranging interview, amongst the topics covered by BBC Sport’s Dan Roan, was events at St James’ Park.

Dan Roan of BBC Sport asking Saudi Arabia Sports Minister, Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal, about the ownership situation at Newcastle United:

“They have done an excellent job.

“They still have a long way to go (but) they have brought the right people on board.

“I’m sure they have targets to win the Premier League and the Champions League and so on, because they strive for the best and always bring the best on board, so I think it’s going to be a bright future for Newcastle.”

The Saudi Arabia Sports Minister was then also asked about Manchester United and Liverpool, whether Saudi Arabia would back Saudi ownership of one or both of those Premier League clubs, now their owners are desperate to sell:

“From the [Saudi Arabia] private sector, I can’t speak on their behalf, but there is a lot of interest and appetite and there’s a lot of passion about football.

“It’s the most-watched league in Saudi Arabia and the region and you have a lot of fans of the Premier League.

“We will definitely support it if any [Saudi] private sector comes in, because we know that’s going to reflect positively on sports within the kingdom.

“If there’s an investor willing to do so and the numbers add up, why not?”

The comments from Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal have sparked much debate, especially regarding who could potentially be set to own Manchester United (and Liverpool).

A new big report from The Athletic has now been published.

Simon Chadwick, professor of sport and geopolitical economy at SKEMA Business School, talking to The Athletic:

“Newcastle United has always seemed like an opportunistic purchase and I think in essence the deal for Newcastle was sold heavily to them by intermediaries.

“You had a willing seller and the amount of money they paid is small change.

“The opportunistic purchase of Newcastle, I think, was a consequence of being kicked back by Manchester United in the first place.

“There probably will be a certain amount of disbelief amongst Saudi officials having bought Newcastle when they really wanted to buy Manchester United. They are now in a position where they could potentially buy Manchester United.

“I might be going out on a bit of a limb here, but it is not entirely inconceivable that they could dispose of Newcastle (United) and buy Manchester United.”

Like anything else that is bought and sold, at that point in time you need a willing seller AND a willing buyer.

Back in 2019 the Glazers were not a willing seller of (the controlling interest in) Manchester United, when the Saudi Arabia PIF (or another Saudi Arabia investment model) were allegedly willing buyers.

So, with the Man Utd owners now very much willing sellers (as they are feeling the heat due to ever increasing competition, including from Newcastle United…), is there indeed still an appetite for the Saudi Arabia PIF to be willing buyers?

The Athletic report talks to various allegedly informed commentators on the subject and the consensus appears to be, that whilst the Saudi Sports Minister has talked of their Government backing Saudi individuals / consortiums who would want to buy Manchester United, it gets a bit complicated, some would say political…

The reasoning is that with Man U currently seen as a bigger prize asset to own, would the Saudi Arabia PIF and those who pull its strings, be happy for Saudi individuals to own Man U and they (Saudi Arabia PIF) own the less valuable (for now…) Newcastle United?

Hence Professor Simon Chadwick believing that it is not ‘inconceivable’ that Saudi Arabia PIF could sell Newcastle United, then buy Manchester United.

Who knows what the truth is, what conversations are / aren’t going on inside the Saudi Arabia PIF?

I’m not losing any sleep over it, as just as I didn’t have any say in Saudi Arabia PIF taking over at St James’ Park, I wouldn’t have any say / influence on them potentially selling up and moving on to Old Trafford.

What I would say though, is that I find it unlikely to happen.

So much work has been done in less than 14 months and the club now on such an upward trajectory, both on and off the pitch, it would be a massive surprise to then see Saudi Arabia PIF so quickly cash in their chips, after putting in so much of the initial groundwork that was needed to start turning this football club around.

If the Mike Ashley and Steve Bruce inheritance had ended in relegation last season for the new owners, then who knows how they would be seeing the situation now, even though after getting the keys from Mike Ashley the new ownership consortium insisted they were in it for the long haul no matter what short-term setbacks there might be, including relegation.

However, having taken that gamble and still buying Newcastle United despite the perilous mid-season situation when they completed the deal, I would be amazed if the Saudi Arabia PIF walked away now.

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