Saudi Arabia minister of finance Mohammed Al-Jadaan believes the vote of Premier League clubs to temporarily stop teams agreeing sponsorship deals tied to their owners shows the Saudi-backed takeover of Newcastle has their competition worried.
Eighteen Premier League clubs last week voted in favour of a ban at an emergency meeting, with only Newcastle and Manchester City opposing the measure.
Saudi Arabia’s state sovereign wealth fund (Public Investment Fund) owns 80 per cent of Newcastle after the club’s reported £305million takeover was confirmed on October 7.
The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, is listed as chair of PIF but the Premier League was satisfied the state – heavily criticised for a poor human rights record – would have no dealings with the club.
Al-Jadaan offered some fuel to critics of that decision in an interview with CNBC Middle East where he referred to Newcastle as “we”, and said the rest of the league would now be worried about the resources available to the club.
“I don’t know the technicalities of the association in the UK (the Premier League) but I would say that if people are worried about competition amongst clubs and particularly now we have invested in one of them, possibly it’s a good sign that there is a potential serious competitor coming their way, which is good for the whole football community,” he told the channel.
Artificially-inflated commercial deals are seen as a way for clubs to circumvent financial fair play rules by increasing revenues. Several major European clubs, including Manchester City and Paris St Germain, have sponsorship deals linked to their owners.
The Premier League will now review its own rules before deciding if permanent changes are needed.
Newcastle’s new owners took their first decisive action in reshaping the club on Wednesday when manager Steve Bruce was sacked, with Graeme Jones taking interim charge for the weekend trip to Crystal Palace.
Bruce had long been unpopular with large sections of the club’s support, and his departure had been anticipated with the Magpies still without a win in the Premier League this season.
But there was also extensive sympathy for the boyhood Magpies fan, who worked under considerable limitations under Mike Ashley’s ownership of the club but still managed 13th- and 12th-placed finishes in his two full seasons in charge.
French winger Allan Saint-Maximin, who used social media to pay tribute to Bruce on Wednesday, told Sky Sports News he was disappointed to see the manager go.
“I feel bad to be honest,” he said. “I’m not going to lie.
“He brought me to Newcastle and let me play every game. He always took care of me in everything. If I had a problem with my kids or anything I need, he was always there and talked to me.
“It’s what I say always – the football is good but what happens outside is really important for me. I believe a lot in God and for me this is so important – the way people talk to you, treat you and are honest with you.
“That’s why I feel bad for him and what’s happened, even for the people who say things not too good about him. I’m really disappointed what’s happened to him.”