If you can cast your minds back to a couple of months ago, it seemed as if Newcastle United were set to be soon sloshing around in Saudi oil money and with their Private Investment Fund (PIF) set to take the reigns of the club from Mike Ashley, the mood was one of celebration on Tyneside.
That’s because it was akin to a two-part act; part one sees the unloved Ashley exiting stage left, while part two sees the Magpies dreaming up a shopping list and a return to the top tiers of not the only the Premier League table but the Champions League also.
With a takeover all but confirmed, talk of an elite manager came into the fray and it was not a case of if Mauricio Pochettino was going to come to St James’ Park, it was more so when should the PIF pay up the compensation that would be handed to Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy so they could have him ASAP.
Unfortunately, best laid plans and hopes sometimes have a habit of not coming to fruition and with the completion of the takeover stalling, any shopping lists that have recently been compiled and the dreams of names such as Gareth Bale calling Newcastle home, have been put firmly on the backburner.
Of course, takeovers do stall and legal red tape is a regular hurdle in matters such as this. But takeover approval usually takes 30 days – the consortium has been waiting 10 weeks for a decision. And it is the lack of noise coming from any of the parties involved that has caused the most concern for fans of the club.
The cloud of darkness has got to the point where Newcastle fans are worried; worried that the long-awaited news of Ashley’s impending departure was the biggest prank of all and just when they thought it was safe to celebrate the end of his tyrannical ownership reign, it may only continue further.
Admittedly the Premier League have been rather busy as of late with a global pandemic doing its absolute best to halt football, the fact that ‘Project Restart’ has been an almost unqualified success (bar a couple of iffy VAR calls in the past week), means their focus has understandably been elsewhere.
With that said, it is not an excuse or a reason that anyone connected with Newcastle can use for much longer and when you consider that this elongated 2019/20 season finally comes to an end in a just a few weeks, completion of the takeover will before long become a matter of urgency.
Whether the halt is down to the Premier League still working through their inbox can be argued, although one thing that certainly is not helping, is the Saudi’s involvement with the illegal screening of matches in their country.
It’s no secret that Saudi Arabia and Qatar do not get on – if anything that’s a huge understatement. The Qatari-owned beIN Sports is a major sports network that hosts the Premier League as well many other major leagues. They assert that beoutQ, based in Saudi, is a pirate operation, siphoning off all their content. It is this issue which could sink the whole Newcastle takeover deal.
With the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruling that the Saudi Arabian Government “actively promoted and supported” the running of beoutQ, this illegality became a red flag as far as the Premier League is concerned – their owners and directors test analyses alleged involvement in criminality to ensure they are “fit and proper”.
This, ultimately, may be the reason the deal does not go through, and for every day or week that passes, the probability of this playing out only seems to increase further.
Then again, all is not lost and there is a rather simple solution, should this prove to be the stickiest of all sticking points. Quite simply, the Saudi Government must cut the cord to the illegal beoutQ signal and from there, a solution can quickly be found.
However, life is never that simple, especially when it comes to Middle Eastern diplomacy, because although the PIF would love to be in charge of Newcastle, the Saudi’s governing hierarchy love nothing more than to draw the ire of their Qatari counterparts.
This means the choice may be simple but difficult at the same time: wind up another nation and run the risk of Premier League entry being denied or create a blackout in Saudi homes up and down the country and get them to pay for the football through legitimate means.
Ultimately, the potential takeover of Newcastle can be construed as another part of Saudi Arabia’s sportwashing project and with such events as heavyweight boxing and the WWE’s global circus already being seduced by the lure of their near unlimited riches, the plan to portray the country in a good light via the medium of sports continues at almost breakneck speed.
An image that has to be constructed after the controversy regarding the death of Turkish journalist Jamal Khashoggi and with the global community still up in his arms regarding the lack of justice for his somewhat barbaric murder, it also raises a question about the moral compass of Newcastle supporters.
Will ‘Human Wrongs’ matter if Newcastle are a genuine top-four club and challenging for the game’s biggest prizes or will the acts in Riyadh be so abhorrent that supporters will judge their prospective new owners as far worse then the current one.
In any other environment, you would imagine the latter would be more prevalent but in the case of football, supporters have very short memories and if things are good on the pitch, then crimes and the horrors can be ignored or at the least, blotted out.
This in itself creates an even bigger question for the Premier League and one where they will have to decide, if they want blood money on their hands and if they are willing to allow such a morally questionable regime the chance to gain a foothold in the English game. Whatever they decide, Newcastle fans are awaiting their decision with bated breath.