Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS) has finally been able to join the Gulf States owning European football clubs, with the takeover of Newcastle United Football Club (FC). He joins the ranks of the Qataris at Paris and the Emiratis at Manchester City. The deal has been on and off for many months, with the Premier League blocking the deal because of the “Owners’ and Directors’ Test” which is part of the process. The purchase has now gone through with the new owner’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) giving legally binding assurances that the likes of MBS and the Saudi Royal Family will not interfere in the running of the club. These assurances were needed to allay fears that the club is not simply a tool of a man and a state that have a questionable human rights record.
The Premier League’s Owners’ and Directors’ Test is simply a tick-box exercise which can be circumvented by a few legal terms. Alisher Usmanov, friend of former Uzbek President Islam Karimov (known for his torture), was allowed to own 30% of Arsenal FC until he sold his share in 2018 for over £500 million. This same test ignores the fact, that the Panama Papers leaks show, that the owner of Chelsea FC, Roman Abramovich gave over £74 million to the Elad group, a pro-Zionist group that routinely attempts to seize Palestinian homes. This is how capitalism works; the fact is money talks and this purchase makes the Premier League the richest in the world and will only help promote the brand globally.
The deal comes months after the average football fan was up in arms about the possibility of a European Super League and all that would entail for the richest and most powerful clubs in the country. Fans, pundits and journalists were all reading from the same gospel of “this is the people’s game” and bemoaning big money destroying the grass-roots game. Some of these same fans and pundits with allegiances to Newcastle are now hailing this as a success for their club. Bad money is only bad until it becomes your money, then all money is good money.
The most telling aspect of the deal and one that lays bare the real intentions of the Saudi’s are the comments of Amanda Staveley who not only made the deal happen but is also now a part owner. She said that Newcastle United can be as big as Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and Manchester City after this takeover. Both PSG and Manchester City are owned by other Gulf States, both are known for their huge levels of investment into their clubs, very often sidestepping financial fair-play rules and both have failed in the biggest European competition, the UEFA Champions League. These comments show this takeover is not about football or building a history for the club. If that surely was the case, then the likes of Liverpool FC or Manchester United FC, who are the most successful clubs in English football, would be the benchmark.
It is clear that this purchase for the Saudi’s is simply a plaything for them to compete with their Gulf rivals as to who can spend the most and win the most. Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk want to compete on going to Mars; the Muslim rulers want to compete by buying European football teams. Although the amount of money being spent is astronomical, for the rulers who take the wealth of this Ummah, it is like betting on a horse and once they become bored of this game they will undoubtedly sell-up and move on.
The Pandora Papers revealed this week how Muslims rulers are hiding and offshoring the wealth of the people. However the likes of Mohammad Bin Salman have no problem openly flaunting the Ummah’s wealth.
أَلْهَىٰكُمُ ٱلتَّكَاثُرُ . حَتَّىٰ زُرْتُمُ ٱلْمَقَابِرَ . كَلَّا سَوْفَ تَعْلَمُونَ
Competition in [worldly] increase diverts you. Until you visit the graves. Nay, you shall come to know! [TMQ At-Takathur:1-3]