Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) plans to inject tens of millions of pounds in the form of a new investment into Newcastle United Football Club, the English football club it bought just over a year ago.
PIF and other investors will inject £70.4 million ($80.6 million) into the Premier League team, according to a statement issued on Wednesday.
This brings the total amount invested in the Club by its owners to £450 million.
The PIF signed a deal to acquire Newcastle United in October 2021.
A consortium backed by Saudi Arabia bought the Club led by the PIF, which is headed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, making the Club the focus of the attention of Saudis who are major football fans.
The PIF paid about $408 million in the highly controversial deal, which critics were quick to ridicule as an example of “sports laundering”, or its massive use of sport to divert attention from its human rights violations.
The takeover was not accepted by the Premier League until legally binding assurances were obtained that the Saudi State would not interfere in the Club’s business.
Overnight, Newcastle United became part of an exclusive pool of European teams funded by Middle Eastern investors, with seemingly unlimited resources.
Since then, the Club has brought in a new coach as well as new players and is currently having a successful season in the Premier League, finishing third after a string of impressive performances.
“We are at the beginning of a long-term plan aimed at building a Club that can consistently compete at the highest levels of English and European football,” said Newcastle United CEO, Darren Eales.
Newcastle United is one of the best-supported Clubs in England, and its St James’ Park stadium is located in the heart of Newcastle upon Tyne, a city located in the north-east of the country, with an average crowd of more than 50,000 fans.
The Club, nicknamed the Magpies, has not won any major title since 1969 (the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup), and it has struggled to stay in the premier league over the past years. It has been relegated twice to the lower divisions in 2006 and 2019.
The Club was in the penultimate position when the acquisition took place a year ago, but it achieved important victories in the new season, which brought it to third place in the standings.
The issue of supporting Newcastle Club in Saudi Arabia is no longer merely supporting a football club, as some see it as a matter of Saudi pride that it owns a club in the English Premier League, despite the growing criticism of “sports washing”, an accusation directed at the Kingdom.
Riyadh is routinely accused of using sporting events and investments in an attempt to cover up human rights abuses.