Mohammed Mandour, a sports journalist for the French website Sports Data, told AFP, “Saudi Arabia has entered the field of sports investment from the widest door. The English Premier League is gaining popularity and the largest audience in the world.” He added that “there is a political and economic objective in the short and long term” to buy Newcastle. He continued, “Politically, improving its general appearance, especially because it is linked to human rights violations. The purchase process is linked to laundering their reputation, not their money. Their money is well known, but their reputation suffers in the West.”
And he added, “In the long run, the issue is economically profitable. Perhaps spending at the beginning is greater than the revenues. But things are beginning to have an economic return from the money selling players and advertising income,” referring to the experiences of the English club Manchester City, owned by the Emirates, and Paris Saint-Germain, France, owned by Qatar.
A damaged photo on the sign of the human rights record
The kingdom faced international condemnation after The murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi In his country’s consulate in Istanbul in 2018, the US intelligence even issued a report last February, accusing bin Salman of agreeing to the killing, which the Saudis strongly rejected.
The kingdom, which has been known for decades to be extremely conservative, is undergoing radical economic, social and religious reforms, but these changes have also been accompanied by a crackdown on critics, journalists, and opponents, especially human rights activists.
And independent economic researcher Mahmoud Negm explained that “the English Premier League is the second largest source of soft power for Britain after the royal family. This proves the huge cultural impact of buying a club in this league in particular.” He told AFP, “The English Premier League has become a forum for world investments. Therefore, it is natural that countries that have financial surpluses invest in it to improve their public image and achieve profits.”
A new mental image of a kingdom?
The deal cost 300 million pounds ($408 million), which the experts said was too low to set foot in the Premier League. An official in the Saudi General Sports Authority, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that “the move will change the English’s perception of Saudi Arabia and will establish a new mental image of the kingdom for future generations.” The official close to the sports and entertainment decision-making department added, “Newcastle will shorten a lot for the Saudis in the world (…) just originally raising the Saudi flag in announcing the deal a success.”
But the deal sparked a lot of controversy from human rights organizations, and before it was concluded, Amnesty International urged the League to look into Saudi Arabia’s “appalling” human rights record. The organization’s campaign head in Britain, Felix Jackins, told AFP that the deal “represents a very clear attempt by the Saudi authorities to whitewash their appalling human rights record by using the luster of the Premier League”.
But businesswoman Amanda Staveley, who managed the acquisition, stressed in an interview with “BBC” that the process was “not mathematical polishing at all”, and indicated that “our partner is not the Saudi state. Our partner is the Public Investment Fund”, one of the most important and most important sovereign wealth funds. influence in the world.