Newcastle United: A year on from club takeover, what has the impact been?

Newcastle United: A year on from club takeover, what has the impact been?

Newcastle’s Saudi Arabian-backed takeover was completed almost a year ago

Signings, controversies, a documentary and stadium expansion were subjects raised in questions you sent our expert on Newcastle United.

Friday marks one year since the club was taken over by a Saudi Arabia-backed consortium, so what impact has it had? And what may happen next?

Matthew Raisbeck – Newcastle United commentator for BBC Radio Newcastle – has responded to the questions you sent BBC Sport.

Richard: I was one of many who were reluctant about the Saudi Arabian-backed takeover. Have Newcastle moved past this and accusations of sportswashing?

Matthew: I don’t think so. While I maintain any takeover was more about the end of the Mike Ashley era than who came in, given how long supporters had campaigned for him to sell the club, we know the involvement of the Saudi Public Investment Fund in the deal did not sit comfortably with some fans and may still be an issue for them. But, there are other supporters who feel they and Newcastle have been unfairly criticized over this.

The links between Newcastle and Saudi Arabia are certainly there. United chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan is the governor of the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia – the country’s sovereign wealth fund which has estimated assets of $620bn (£550bn) – while the chief executive of the Saudi Golf Federation, Majed Al Sorour, has been appointed to the board.

The club traveled to Jeddah for a training camp in January and could return during the World Cup break. Eddie Howe and some of his new signings have also been asked questions by journalists about the Saudi human rights record.

This season’s green and white third kit – seen in the draw with Wolves in August – drew criticism because of its resemblance to the Saudi Arabia national team kit, with Amnesty International saying wearing it would be “clear evidence” of ‘sportswashing’ by the Saudi state.

John: Do you feel that a docu-series would be beneficial to Newcastle beyond the fee they would receive for it? If so in what way?

This is certainly not something that would have happened before the takeover! Because of the unquenchable thirst on Tyneside for news, information and access, I think most fans would enjoy seeing behind the scenes. It feels like they are building something special, and it would be interesting to see more of how the club is changing. The worldwide reach of these documentaries should also help to grow Newcastle’s profile and attract new supporters. A lot may depend on how much access manager Eddie Howe would want to give to a film crew because he is very loyal towards and protective of his players and the dressing room environment.

Kyle: Now the owners have 12 months under their belts, do you think they have had to re-evaluate their ambitions of being Premier League title contenders within five to 10 years?

Amanda Staveley
Amanda Staveley fronted the consortium that took over at Newcastle

The club is still at the start of this journey. The owners will be both pleased with their progress so far and even more aware of how far they still have to go. I think it’s an exciting time for fans because after years of existing rather than achieving, the club is now being set up to succeed.

They have taken big steps forward with each transfer window – spending money, and recruiting smartly – but they are mindful of the impact of financial fair play restrictions. Key to operating within those rules will be improving the club’s commercial performance – and new sponsorship deals will help with that. Investment in the academy, so they can produce more players of their own, like the talented Elliot Anderson, is also important.

Jack: How quickly do Newcastle need to qualify for the Champions League in order to retain the top talent they have attracted so far?

This will be important because it’s difficult to see the likes of the brilliant Bruno Guimaraes, as well as he has settled in, wanting to stay for several years if the club aren’t competing at the top. They have made great strides over the past year and they won’t want to waste a transfer window as they try to achieve their objectives.

Qualifying for Europe again will also help make Newcastle a more attractive destination for potential new signings.

Jonny: Are there any plans for stadium expansion?

Such is the appetite for watching Newcastle, every match is now a sell out, and thousands of fans are left disappointed at being unable to get tickets. The club will want to find a solution, but increasing the capacity will be difficult given the location of the stadium.

Earlier this year, co-owner Mehrdad Ghodoussi appeared to rule out moving to a new ground, when he said leaving St James’ Park “would be like tearing your soul out”.

Richard: Signing new players is great in the short term but what are Newcastle’s plans for longer term development and to sustain a high quality?

The owners have been addressing issues at all areas of the club. Work to improve the training ground began earlier this year, after they acknowledged the facilities “fall significantly below the Premier League and perhaps even Championship standards”. They should still move to a new training facility further down the line. There have been further additions to Howe’s backroom staff, and the club are also understood to have increased the academy budget, with new players and staff joining the youth set up.

The appointments of Darren Eales as chief executive and Dan Ashworth as sporting director have been impressive, and now the club has some much-needed football expertise at board level – something that was lacking prior to the takeover.

James: Eddie Howe looks very much like a potential England manager, if that was to happen where would the club go from there?

Eddie Howe is unveiled as Newcastle manager
Howe took over at Newcastle in November of 2021 and fine form secured 11th place in the Premier League

I think Newcastle would fight very hard to keep him if there was interest from elsewhere. But I don’t think supporters should be worried about this. Howe was asked about England last month, and said “in the short-term, it’s not on my radar”. He is a manager who enjoys the day-to-day work at club level, and remember he only recently signed a new long-term contract to commit himself to Newcastle.

Thomas: Could Eddie Howe be the long-term manager that makes Newcastle successful? Can any of the current first team players be in a league-winning side?

The team has already grown so much under his management and, with further investment, I think he can. There is huge admiration and respect at Newcastle for the brilliant job Howe has done, taking them from red-hot relegation favorites to a mid-table finish last season, and they now have only one defeat in the current campaign. The club certainly see him being around for a while. Crucially, he also has the support of a united fanbase – something not all Newcastle managers have enjoyed.

The current side has some excellent players, but maybe your second question shows they still have some way to go before they reach the very top.

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