It was announced on Thursday that a Saudi-led consortium has bought out Newcastle United Football Club for a reported fee of approximately £300 million. The initial reaction to the move has been one of joy and relief from fans of the club, who have long suffered from parasitic owners producing bad results, but although the takeover may produce good results for Newcastle on the pitch, off of it there are much more nefarious intentions at play.
The takeover seems to be one attempting to emulate the rapid ascendencies of clubs like Manchester City and Paris Saint Germain, who were relatively irrelevant on the world stage until they were bought by, quite literally, entire countries. This popularised scheme involves nations utilising their public investment funds, essentially money that countries set aside to invest outwardly, hoping to see an increase in that value.
Countries like Qatar in the case of PSG and the United Arab Emirates with Man City have taken money out of their investment funds to buy the clubs, and are already seeing results. The owners pump high volumes of money into the clubs to purchase new players and raise the brand profile, increasing the value of the club to later sell once it has peaked. The liberal narrative of such a scheme is one of positivity, that the new money generated through the investments would be brought back to the country and utilised to raise the standard of living for the people within it, such a narrative couldn’t be further from the truth.
Although all money from these public investment funds is originally sourced from taxpayer money, the returns from these investments are almost solely used to benefit the nations’ elite and despotic regimes. In the case of Saudi Arabia, this is more true than ever, with the monarchy having absolute dictatorial rule over the country. This power has been utilised to perpetuate a plethora of human rights abuses including the ongoing imperialist war and famine in Yemen which remains among the world’s worst humanitarian disasters. Other severe abuses include the domestic tyranny of journalists and dissidents with the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi being a prime example. A return on investments for Saudi Arabia would only lead to an increased volume of funds to continue to bolster such sinister endeavours.
The celebration from Newcastle fans is understandable considering the upward trajectory the takeover will most likely have on the team’s quality of play, but surely the meaning of such success will be robbed by the vapidity of its means. Football, which has historically been a working-class game, founded, owned, and run by supporters, is now becoming yet another pawn for oligarchs and imperialists worldwide. Success is no longer being gained by collective effort, support, and organisation by working-class supporters, but rather through financial takeovers, with the winner of the big trophies being whoever spent enough money to do so. This is a future for the sport that Newcastle fans and football fans generally need to ponder before the beautiful game completely degenerates and succumbs to corporate greed.