January 31, 2023



Newcastle takeover: ‘This is a chance to become a seriously big club again’ | Football

6 min read

Malcolm Macdonald, the former Newcastle and England striker, scorer of 95 goals in 187 appearances for the club

Over the years I’ve always loved the way Newcastle fans traditionally look at things with so much hope and faith but, under Mike Ashley’s ownership, I’ve felt, for the first time really, that a lot of that hope and faith has been lost. Now I believe they will not only return but be properly restored.

There are concerns about the regime in Saudi Arabia and things over there are certainly very different to life in Europe, but the Saudis are in partnership with Reuben Brothers and Amanda Staveley so the board will be balanced. And, in the final analysis, business is business.

I don’t think it [Saudi Arabia’s human rights record] will be a big issue for Newcastle supporters. I’ve heard that Reuben Brothers are thoroughly looking forward to this; they have a lot of property interests up here, including Gosforth Park racecourse, understand the city and know what they’re getting into. It sounds as if communication between supporters and the club will improve dramatically.

It bodes exceedingly well for supporters as well as everyone working at the club. I’m sure the players will see it as good news. This is a chance for Newcastle to become a seriously big club again.

Miles Starforth, Newcastle United correspondent for the Shields Gazette, one of the north east’s leading evening newspapers

I’ve lost count of the number of “takeovers” I’ve covered! The first came just a year or so after Mike Ashley bought Newcastle and these takeover bids, more recently labelled “fakeovers”, have punctuated his tenure.

This deal though is done, as I understand it, and it’s all down to the Premier League’s owners’ and directors’ test. I expect it to go through, it’s just a case of how quickly.

Obviously, the most important story right now is the coronavirus pandemic but this is massive news for Newcastle United.

The ethical/human rights aspects of a Saudi funded takeover have been on my mind, and I think there’s an awareness on Tyneside of the issues raised by Amnesty International. That said, the overwhelming majority of supporters have welcomed the proposed deal – and the end of the Mike Ashley era.

Now, there’s hope, at last. This club has been relegated twice on Mike Ashley’s watch. Fans disillusioned with Ashley’s ownership have been walking away. Ambition and hope will bring them back.

Newcastle fans have regularly protested against Mike Ashley’s ownership of the club

Newcastle fans have regularly protested against Mike Ashley’s ownership of the club. Photograph: Lee Smith/Action Images via Reuters

Alex Hurst, chair of the Newcastle United Supporters Trust and editor of the fanzine Truth Faith:

If – and it’s still an if – this takeover happens then it will bring back hope to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, in the north-east.

For too long, Newcastle has existed for the benefit of one man and that won’t be the case with the new owners. As supporters, what we want to see from them is the club being run in a sustainable, transparent and ambitious manner. We aren’t demanding we win trophies, or win the Champions League, and we appreciate they might not be able to provide us with a “Manchester City effect”, but what we do want is a firm sense that we have our club back and that it’s again going in the right direction.

The involvement of Saudi Arabian wealth in the takeover is not a concern right now and ultimately any new owners will be judged like all owners are judged – by how they treat the fans and how they run the football club. Getting those two things right is the most important thing.

José Enrique, Newcastle left-back from 2007 to 2011)

I have nothing against Mike Ashley – he is a nice guy and when I was at Newcastle he was always good to me. But for sure it is the right time for him to leave the club.

Change is needed because Newcastle are not where they should be. They are a top club who should be in the top six and have a top manager. The current manager, Steve Bruce, has done a good job but he is not Rafa Benítez, who had won things. He left because he was not given the money and control he needed to do his job properly, which was a big shame for Newcastle and showed Ashley was not doing a good job as owner.

It looks like the new owners will give the manager – whoever that is – money to spend. That is needed just to make sure Newcastle stay in the Premier League because if you look at clubs like Aston Villa, they are spending £100m just to survive. The new owners need to go beyond that to ensure Newcastle are competing for the top six and even higher.

Jose Enrique in action for Newcastle in 2008

Jose Enrique in action for Newcastle in 2008. Photograph: Dave Thompson/PA

In Spain people ask me: “What is happening with Newcastle?” – they know here that they are a big club who should be doing better. And they are a club with unbelievable fans. I saw that when we got relegated to the Championship and there were 40,000-plus people at every game. Their passion and loyalty is amazing and they deserve more. Hopefully that will be the case now.

Kevin Christie, writer for the fanzine the Mag

After 13 years in a loveless marriage with an owner whose disdain for our club and its traditions were all too apparent, we can finally dare to dream again – and dream big.

Rafa Benítez’s departure last summer was dispiriting but the hopelessness and despondency that I’ve felt since have been swept away and replaced with a sense of positivity and excitement.

All we’ve ever wanted is an owner with the club’s best interests at heart. It looks like we finally have that once more. There’s obviously a worry that access to a bottomless pit of money will dilute the essence of the club, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thrilled about the prospect of becoming one of the game’s elite players again.

I also understand the misgivings regarding sportswashing, but I’m willing to give the Saudi PIF the benefit of the doubt and hope that their involvement in this project hints at a willingness to change and modernise.

Jacque Talbot, freelance journalist and writer for the fanzine True Faith

Many people have decried the potential takeover but, as supporters, we’re allowed to be glad that Mike Ashley is going while recognising that our club’s money will, in part, stem from a regime that’s fallen foul of human rights atrocities.

It may be terrible to say, but having boundless sums of money really is the nature of the beast now; if you don’t like foreign investment having an influence in football then the elite game is not for you. And our club has been deprived of any sort of investment or ambition for far too long.

It’s therefore refreshing to hear that the potential new owners are willing to spend on new players, and will almost certainly break our transfer record more than once doing so. What’s more key is that they will also oversee the regeneration of the city, something that was hugely overlooked – even, arguably, hampered – by Ashley.

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