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Home   /   The takeover of Newcastle United – One year on…

By Ashley Adamson-Edwards

Just over one year ago, Newcastle United were given their Premier League lifeline as the Saudi Arabia based ownership group completed the full takeover of the club. At the time, the Magpies were 17th in England’s top-flight after remaining winless in their opening six games, a streak they’d continue until match-day 15. However, all those years of heartbreak, praying someone slightly more inspiring than Steve Bruce would guide the team to success, were about to be over.

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The Newcastle at the start of the 2021/22 campaign is a very different Newcastle we’re seeing unfold leading up to 2023. With the help of several new signings, the North-East are now sixth in the league after nine games. Eddie Howe, the club’s new manager, has propelled the atmosphere around the club and rejuvenated the cities love for their team.

On the other side of the world though, the Saudi Arabian government are continually abusing human rights. No pre-existing community, no matter the size will stand in their way as the country continues to try and up-lift their global image.

Initially, the Saudi takeover was met with firm criticism from British Media as reporters bombarded Howe with ethical questions when taking the role. The League’s newest owners may have passed its fit and proper persons test, but deep down, many weren’t completely convinced it was the right move. However, the recent anniversary of Newcastle’s revolution has often been portrayed as a mark of celebration, a chance to look back on the success brought to the club. In only 365 days, an organisation representing numerous ethical controversies has had its media perception somewhat shifted. As a result, this is an analysis into the portrayal of Newcastle United’s takeover, one year on.

A day after the official anniversary, Newcastle thrashed Brentford 5-1 at home with their star midfielder, Bruno Guimaraes grabbing a brace. The Chronicle, a local newspaper for the North-east of England then went about its usual business of publishing and online match report. “Newcastle United celebrated their one-year takeover anniversary in true style with a comfortable 5-1 victory over Brentford.” (Chronicle, 2022) As shown, the news site started their report leading on the anniversary and build into the jubilation from the on-pitch victory. Despite this, the article doesn’t go onto mention anything regarding the anniversary later on and completely ignores the topic. Whilst it’s something to celebrate alongside the three points and grab readers attention, it’s not something to go into further detail about when analysing the match.

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Another local media page, The Newcastle United Blog by Ed Harrison also published news on the anniversary, but this time focused solely on the topic. On describing the current owner’s current impact on the club, they said “Newcastle are in excellent hands under this ownership group.” (The Newcastle United Blog, 2022) It seems that from a local media perspective, the club couldn’t have better people in charge. The report goes onto discuss the quotes from an interview conducted by the owners but gives no mention to possible controversy surrounding them. On the day of the takeover however, the same site sends a message to Mike Ashley, Newcastle’s previous owner. “For 14 of my 27 years on this planet, all I’ve known from Newcastle United is lies, greed, no hope and a soulless club stripped of ambition, with us held down by heavy chains ever since a certain man seized control in 2007,” (The Newcastle United blog, 2021) said the Magpie blog. Whilst Ashley was far from perfect, the article is full of criticism towards him for the poor results fans of had seen throughout his tenure.

Newcastle World, a national news site dedicating news to local areas throughout the country reported on Howe’s interview on the anniversary. Although it was an article giving a chronological account of how Howe responded to questions from the media, the site lead still gave a lead. They wrote, “Everything Eddie Howe said on Newcastle United’s one-year takeover anniversary, the club’s Saudi Arabian owners and plans for the future.” (Newcastle World, 2022). The article did onto to report on the response Howe’s comments on the Premier League’s fit and proper person’s test but was planted towards the end. Perhaps if they thought it was the most newsworthy item from the interview, they would have led on it. In this case though, they did not.

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Mail Online, the online news site owned by the Daily Mail also reported on the anniversary. However, this time, the previous trends weren’t repeated. “As Newcastle fans toast anniversary of state-backed ownership, Saudi Arabia sentences three men to death for refusing to leave their homes in order to make way for £440bn futuristic city that was only named hots of 2029 Asian Winter Games this week” (Mail Online, 2022), read Jeorge Bird’s headline. It appears that an article not just focused on reporting on Newcastle’s football results, has continued the same type of coverage seen last year. Not only does it point out that Newcastle’s ownership is backed by a state in its headline, but it also then goes onto paint a picture of what that state is doing to its people. Almost creating that Newcastle fans should be mindful of where the club’s success is coming from.

Back in the land of the Premier League though, The Northern Echo reported on Yasir Al-Rumayyan’s, the Newcastle chairman’s “message of appreciation to supporters as they mark the first anniversary of their takeover.” Once again, the article continues to introduce the quotes with the success the club has recently had on the pitch. There’s no mention of any Saudi Arabia controversies.

Arguably the leading sports news site in the world and certainly England, Sky Sports posted a bulletin with a video of Eddie Howe responding to questions about the takeover anniversary. In the interview, Howe was eventually asked about the source of the clubs finance however in this instance, Sky cut out that part of the video. They uploaded the first part where Howe discusses how positive the club is and how well the owners have done, but don’t include the more controversial questions. Therefore, if someone was to click on this Sky video, they’d be unaware Howe was asked these questions and possibly, made them slightly less likely to remember or think the criticisms surrounding the club aren’t relevant anymore.

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The Athletic on the other hand, conducted a more account of the current situation with Newcastle’ owners. In three separate articles, Matt Slater, George Caulkin, Chris Waugh and Oliver Kay explore various aspects of the clubs ownership. More specifically, Slater investigated the strength of Saudi Arabian influence on Newcastle. Whilst Slater didn’t discuss items such as the ones written about by Mail Online, he did produce a detailed story on what involvements the Public Investment Fund has on the club and whether that’s connected directly to the Arabian state. (The Athletic, 2022)

In conclusion, as with most incidents, different media companies have taken different approaches to the anniversary of Newcastle United’s change in ownership. From my findings, the more local, supporter-based news media sites are very much on board with the Saudi involvement with the club. After the recent success on the pitch, the anniversary is a chance to celebrate and appreciate all that’s been done for the club. Similarly, leading news organisation in the UK, Sky have taken the role of putting Saudi Arabian criticisms to the back of the list. However, some are still trying to investigate the vastly complicated background of one of England’s biggest football clubs.

References:

Chronicle Live (2022) Newcastle United celebrated their one-year takeover anniversary in true style with a comfortable 5-1 victory over Brentford [online]. Available: https://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/sport/football/newcastle-united-celebrate-takeover-anniversary-25213221 [accessed on 13th October 2022].  

Mail Online (2022) As Newcastle fans toast anniversary of state-backed ownership, Saudi Arabia sentences three men to death for refusing to leave their homes in order to make way for £440bn futuristic city that was only named hots of 2029 Asian Winter Games this week [online]. Available: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/sportsnews/article-11293373/As-Newcastle-fans-toast-anniversary-ownership-Saudi-Arabia-sentences-three-men-DEATH.html [accessed on 13th October 2022].

National World Publishing (2022) Every word Eddie Howe said on Newcastle United takeover anniversary and Saudi Arabian ownership [online]. Available: https://www.newcastleworld.com/sport/football/newcastle-united/every-word-eddie-howe-said-on-newcastle-united-takeover-anniversary-saudi-arabian-ownership-3871395 [accessed on 13th October 2022].

Sky Sports News (2022) Eddie Howe on one-year anniversary of Newcastle takeover [online]. Available: https://www.skysports.com/watch/video/sports/football/12714340/howe-on-one-year-anniversary-of-newcastle-takeover [accessed on 13th October 2022].

The Athletic (2022) Newcastle United’s takeover: How strong is Saudi Arabia’s influence one year on? [online]. Available: https://theathletic.com/3653099/2022/10/07/newcastle-united-takeover-saudi-arabia-influence/ [accessed on 13th October 2022].

The Athletic (2022) Newcastle United’s transfer, stadium and investment plans one year after takeover [online]. Available: https://theathletic.com/3651769/2022/10/05/newcastle-takeover-what-next/ [accessed on 13th October 2022].

Newcastle’s takeover: In Saudi Arabia, exploring how the club fits a country’s vision [online]. Available: https://theathletic.com/3652439/2022/10/06/newcastles-takeover-saudi-arabia/ [accessed on 13 October 2022].

The Newcastle United Blog (2022) Newcastle Co-Owners Give Interviews on One-Year Anniversary Of Takeover [online]. Available :https://www.nufcblog.com/2022/10/07/newcastle-co-owners-give-interviews-on-one-year-anniversary-of-takeover/ [accessed on 13th October 2022].

The Newcastle United Blog (2021) Newcastle Co-Owners Give Interviews On One-Year Anniversary Of Takeover [online]. Available: https://www.nufcblog.co.uk/2021/10/08/the-message-ive-waited-14-years-to-send-to-mike-ashley/ [accessed on 13th October 2022].

The Northern Echo (2022) Yassir Al-Rumayyan writes pens letter to Newcastle fans on takeover anniversary [online]. Available: https://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/sport/23027354.yasir-al-rumayyan-writes-pens-letter-newcastle-fans-takeover-anniversary/ [accessed on 13th October 2022].

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