Riyadh: Newcastle United FC’s Saudi Arabian owners are considering buying another top football club in Europe, a person with knowledge of the matter said, as the kingdom prepares for more big spending in sports.
Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has in recent days switched from only considering the addition of smaller teams to its football stable, to potentially buying another team from one of Europe’s five big leagues, according to the person.
The strategy rethink comes less than a week after European football’s governing body UEFA said it would allow a host of clubs with the same owner to compete across its elite competitions, the person said, asking not to be identified discussing confidential information.
UEFA cleared English Premier League clubs Brighton & Hove Albion FC and Aston Villa FC and France’s Toulouse FC to play in its tournaments next season, despite their respective owners having interests in other clubs that will be competing. The decision was reached after the owners of these clubs agreed to take steps to ensure they were run independently of each other.
But football’s ownership landscape has altered dramatically as wealthy investors from the US and Middle East have chased greater exposure to the world’s most popular sport. Multiclub ownership is now prevalent in football, with its proponents pointing to the ability to save costs by sharing data and players across teams and strike more lucrative commercial deals.
PIF led a 300 million pounds ($391 million)-plus takeover of Newcastle United in 2021 that included the UK’s Jamie Reuben and Amanda Staveley as minority investors. The owners have since invested heavily in the Premier League club and Newcastle United will compete in the lucrative Champions League next season for the first time in 20 years.
Newcastle United’s owners have been exploring possible targets - reportedly including Belgium’s KV Oostende - but wanted to wait for clarification of UEFA’s stance on multiclubs before proceeding with any new acquisition, the person said. A representative for PIF couldn’t immediately provide comment, while a spokesperson for Newcastle United declined to comment.
The acquisition of Newcastle United remains one of Saudi Arabia’s most high-profile sporting investments to date. The kingdom has made sport a key pillar of efforts to diversify its economy and boost tourism. Saudi Arabia has in recent weeks taken major steps to build up its domestic football league by buying a group of local teams and paying top dollar to attract international stars, including many from the Premier League.