Complex Made Simple

Newcastle United acquisition: Sheikhdom funds key to European teams’ success?

Can Sheikh Khaled's $443 million investment do for what Newcastle what Sheikh Mansour's funds did for Manchester City FC 10 years ago?

Sheikh Khaled has supposedly “agreed terms” with Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley Sheikh Khaled could be the savior Newcastle fans have been waiting since Ashley took ownership of the club GCC wealth has brought many a European team success

GCC Sheikhs settle for nothing but the best, and European teams have come to learn this first-hand.

With UK football club Newcastle United (NU) in talks to be acquired by UAE businessman and royal family member Sheikh Khaled Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the conversation has popped up once again regarding the bright future Newcastle will likely find in Emirati hands. 

Sheikh Khaled to own Newcastle?

Earlier this week, reports surfaced confirming that representatives of Sheikh Khaled Bin Zayed Al Nahyan had supposedly “agreed terms” with Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley, moving closer to completing a £350 million ($443 million) deal to buy the Premier League club. 

Sheikh Khaled’s purchase would occur through the Bin Zayed Group, which he chairs. 

The Premier League Club, which Ashley had been struggling to sell for years, could very well have finally found an owner that could bring it to the top. 

Still, some have their caveats. 

This will be the fifth time in 11 years that Newcastle have supposedly been on the verge of being sold by Ashley, but on each occasion the talks have collapsed and there are growing fears this will follow suit,” The Telegraph opined, for example. 

According a statement issued by the Bin Zayed Group, Sheikh Khaled has said that the deal “will take time.”  

Terms “have been agreed between us and Mike Ashley; these terms have been reflected in a document, signed by both parties, which has been forwarded to the Premier League,” the statement said. The Group has also sent Ashley a proof of funds. 

Last year, Sheikh Khaled had attempted to acquire Liverpool FC, but was eventually unsuccessful.

Saudi Arabia was rumored to be bidding for Manchester United recently, but the reports were eventually confirmed to be false. 

Sheikhdom capital often leads to success…

Manchester City has become the poster boy for Middle Eastern investment in European teams. Reinvigorated by the in pouring of funds, Manchester City saw its star rise from relative mediocrity. 

“In more than a century of existence prior to Sheikh Mansour’s arrival, City had won the English league title just twice, enjoying occasional periods of success but often bouncing between divisions and playing in the third tier of English football as recently as 1999,” Middle East Eye explained. 

Purchased by Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, a relative of Sheikh Khaled, City has since seen unforeseeable success, winning multiple Premier League championships and scoring exceptionally per season.  

…but there is one more ingredient

One would think that if you deposit $1.6 billion into any team, you are bound to see similar results. That is true to a certain extent, but there is more to Man City’s success story. 

Since his takeover, Sheikh Mansour has invested in the best players money could buy, in an iconic stadium, and in astronomically valued sponsorship deals

Yet, Man City manager Pep Guardiola believes owner Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan’s impact on the club has not just been down to his continued financial support but also smart decision-making.

“He follows us every weekend, every game,” Guardiola told reporters last year, The Guardian reported at the time. “I was really impressed when I spoke with him. He knows absolutely everything, what happened here, the team, the way we play, or what happens with the club – he’s involved.”

Paris Saint-Germain, another European team, saw a similar resurgence after being bought by a GCC party: Qatar Sports Investments, a subsidiary of the state-owned Qatar Investment Authority (QIA). It took control of PSG in 2011, purchasing star player Zlatan Ibrahimovic. 

Other clubs like Sheffield United, Hull City, and Aston Villa also have Arab owners/majority shareholders. 

Bridging cultures

Just like European teams are not uniform in their players’ identities and nationalities, so it follows when it comes to ownership. What we are seeing here is a unity in vision between GCC owners and these multicultural teams, united under the love for the sport, and the results have been exemplary.   

Football might be a business of billions, but it is unlike any other business, fusing dreams, passions, and cultures. Sure, there is money to be made here, but it takes more than just dumping a truckload of money to find results. 

Related: On the topic of investment in football teams, have you ever wondered why Arab teams keep failing at the World Cup?