One week on from the takeover of Newcastle United by PIF, there continues to be a heavily mixed reception, both in fans and the media. Due to PIF’s controversial involvement with the Saudi Arabian government, the takeover has come in for a great deal of criticism, particularly from fans. How did the media react to the takeover though? I looked at reports and articles from five different news outlets; TalkSport, The Athletic, The Sun, The Guardian and The Times, to investigate the wide scale reaction to the takeover.
TalkSport mainly seemed to focus on what the new influx of money in to the club would mean for their future playing and coaching staff business, with seven of the 10 articles surrounding this topic, the number I used as the sample for the whole investigation, speaking about either transfer rumours or managerial link. Out of the three reports that didn’t involve either managers or transfers; one was a report on Premier League teams’ meeting surrounding the takeover, and one was a list of the richest owners in the league, with Newcastle now sitting at the top. However, one article dug into who the fronters of this new takeover are, but rather than focusing on the origins of PIF and the controversy surrounding the takeover – very briefly brushing over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, they focus more on the individuals behind it and their previous ventures.
The Times also seemed to focus heavily on the transfers, financial and managerial side of PIF’s takeover, using quotes from Amanda Stavely, who fronts the buyers, stating the club could be bigger than Manchester City and PSG. They also wrote a piece regarding a ‘transfer specialist’ and what he believes Newcastle could do with their new-found wealth. Producing only one article with the mention of ‘sportswashing’ accusations.
A link to a TalkSport article surrounding transfers can be found below:
Out of the ten articles I looked at produced by The Sun, five were negative – with one analysing the process of ‘sportswashing,’ one calling out what the headline labels as ‘an all time low for morality,’ and two reporting the reaction of the other Premier League clubs calling an emergency meeting and ‘calling for Premier League chiefs to quit.’ This is a rather different tone to the approach taken by TalkSport – although The Sun did also produce two stories regarding future transfer possibilities.
The Guardian reported negatively on the takeover in eight out of the ten articles I read, shining a light on the ‘faux morality of football,’ brining attention to the ‘actual suffering’ going on in Saudi Arabia in comparison to Newcastle fans’ claims of suffering under previous ownership, and stating that the takeover is ‘a symptom of England’s political failures.’ This heavy emphasis on the controversies and negative points is a hard-hitting, eye-opening look in to what the takeover could really symbolise, and takes away from the focus of spending opportunities and exponential club growth that has been the focus of other articles.
The Athletic produced a range of differing articles, exploring the links of PIF to the Saudi Arabian government, investigating the Premier League’s use of the ‘fit for purpose ownership’ test, and a fantastic piece written by Jack Pitt-Brooke, which condemned the reaction of Newcastle fans, stating ‘they are not responsible for the evils of Mohammad Bin Salman, but they are responsible for their own reactions.’ They did also write stories surrounding transfer links to the like of James Tarkowski, and managerial links to Eddie Howe and delving specifically in to the reign of Mike Ashley as the club’s owner.
It appears, overall, that most media is keen to report on the negatives of the takeover, and analyse why there is so much controversy surrounding the Saudi Arabian ownership of Newcastle United, shining a light on what some have described as ‘evils’ which may otherwise have been brushed under the carpet in favour of the awe-inspiring wealth of the new owners and their possible transfer strategies. News outlets cannot be blamed for reporting on this side of things – transfers and money like this are what fans like to hear – but the ones who persist with the negative stories can be praised for their work to bring such controversy to public attention.