Economic and political backdrop to Newcastle United acquisition

Dr. Ali al-Kheshaiban

Published: Updated:

Globally, investing in sports generates colossal profits. Saudi Arabia, as is the case with other countries, seeks to achieve breakthroughs in the realm of sports investing. The Public Investment Fund’s success in concluding the Newcastle United F.C.’s acquisition strikes another milestone on the Fund’s agenda. According to a report published by Sports Business Group, investment in sports in Europe alone has grown throughout the 21st century, highlighting that football continues to maintain its growing global popularity. This is what drives football-related investments to accrue huge profits from broadcasting rights and other investment activities.

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All high-income countries around the world invest in sports, and this is commonplace practice in seeking out areas of high financial returns. Saudi Arabia’s PIF makes its debut in this domain through its acquisition of Newcastle United F.C., on par with other similar regional purchases. Most GCC countries invest in European clubs, where major US corporations also invest. The deal was worth 300 million pounds. Hence, the purchase was an investment lifeline for rescuing a prestigious club like Newcastle United from its crises. On the other hand, the deal is forecast to generate a lot of returns for the PIF.

In fact, the English Premier League is the most renowned competition in the world, and any entry into it hails a major turning point for investors all over the world. Saudi Arabia, through the PIF, has exercised its natural right to enter this competitive field. All countries with investment capabilities are poised for pouncing on appropriate opportunities in sports investing. GCC countries, without exception, follow the same path in terms of investing in sports. These countries have achieved remarkable successes in terms of global reach through sports investing. From an economic perspective, this deal marks a triumph for PIF planning, by proving that all challenges, discouraging conceptions, and biased interpretations must be overcome.

Newcastle United Takeover - St James' Park, Newcastle, Britain - October 7, 2021 Fans react outside the stadium after Newcastle United announced takeover. (Reuters)
Newcastle United Takeover - St James' Park, Newcastle, Britain - October 7, 2021 Fans react outside the stadium after Newcastle United announced takeover. (Reuters)

The English PL is one of the widest gates into the vast domain of sports investing, and all Saudi Arabia anticipates from this step is to achieve economic returns, which has nothing to do with solving existing problems or changing a political image. Everyone must abandon this line of thought. Saudi Arabia is well-known to nearly two billion Muslims worldwide; it is Islam’s heartland and home to the Two Holy Mosques. The Kingdom has also been the largest global oil producer since the 1930s. The time has come for the world to know us without rumors hinting at a hidden, surreptitious agenda. What really provoked me to venture into writing about sports - as I am no expert on sports - are those prejudiced analyses that portray us as if we want to buy the whole world out in order to improve the image of Saudi Arabia, a country that is respected by the world at large; the home of the Two Holy Mosques and the number one world energy provider, run by kings and leaders with century-long contributions in spreading peace and harmony around the world.

No sooner does the world get word of a Saudi political, economic, sports or societal accomplishment than do dozens of illusions circulate about the Kingdom, propagated by a rabblerousing media. These false dichotomies that pit “us” against “them” aim to undermine our successes. The message that our domestic and overseas media must adopt is that the world must acquaint itself with hearing about the limitless Saudi achievements and excellence. The myriad interpretations concerning the reasons behind the PIF’s acquisition of the football club do not change anything; as all of these interpretations concede the countless benefits of investing in sports, which is a shortcut to quickly amassing a multitude of returns and benefits. We are progressing according to a vision designed to take us to a new reality, and we will not permit anyone to stop us from achieving our goals.

Perhaps the story of global reach and the accomplishments achieved both locally and abroad through our Vision 2030, can make us sometimes lose sight of how the world will receive this excellence, especially since we must realize that neither the entire world nor all media will welcome such excellence. Therefore, we must realize that the more we gain in terms of our future, the better we can gradually accomplish our aspirations, ultimately leading us to the top. What we have to consider is a media strategy that refutes these negative visions by spreading facts and emphasizing that the world today is changing, and that Saudi Arabia, through its Vision 2030, is striving to occupy a prestigious position among world countries.

This article was originally published in, and translated from, Saudi newspaper al-Riyadh.

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Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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