LONDON: Newcastle United fans have welcomed the takeover of their club by a consortium backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF).
Following intense negotiations, the Kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, alongside financial entrepreneur Amanda Staveley and billionaire investors the Reuben brothers, sealed a £300 million ($410 million) deal with Mike Ashley, the Premier League club’s former owner.
Fans said the takeover was good news, not just for the football club, but also the city of Newcastle and the wider region of north-eastern England.
“We need this, we need it so bad,” Justin Cowan, a retired warehouse worker from Newcastle, said. “The club, the city, we’ve been put down loads of times, we’re a sleeping giant and it’s about time, it’s lovely for the club and for the region. Everyone’s happy.”
Paul Burchell agreed, adding that the financial backing coming with PIF funding was long overdue for a club the size of Newcastle United, which has won the FA Cup six times and been champions of England on four occasions, but not since 1927.
“I’m super excited, I think it’s a great move,” he said. “I think it’s something that we needed for a long, long time in this club, it has been going nowhere lately since Mike Ashley has owned the club, so I think this can only be a good thing for Newcastle and the club.”
Supporters of the club are hoping the new consortium of owners will be able to bring a high caliber of manager and player to turn around their current fortunes in the Premier League, where they sit in 19th place.
“I’d like to see them invest in the club and make the club better really, a manager that’s got experience, like a big-name manager, a few good players to start with,” Luke Watson, a warehouse worker and fan of 20 years, said. “I mean, we’re not going to get the best players to start with, but just build the club up.”
Staving off relegation is the immediate priority for the new owners, says Newcastle fan Sophie Oldfield, a mortgage advisor.
“Hopefully they’ll bring a lot of money and some good players and stay up this season. Looks like relegation at the moment, so hopefully now things will start getting better,” she said.