The Importance of the Newcastle Takeover

With the chances of a potential Newcastle takeover increasingly looking more likely, the importance of such a takeover and what it would mean for Newcastle fans is here put into focus.

Since Newcastle owner Mike Ashley put the club up for sale in mid-October there has been a growing feeling on Tyneside that it is pivotal that the club changes hands as soon as possible.

Sports apparel tycoon Ashley never truly won the hearts of his club’s supporters and there have been very public calls for him to sell for a significant time now. Since his purchase of the club in 2007 Newcastle have been relegated twice, something which had not happened since 1989, and a number have decisions have been made which have repeatedly bewildered Magpies fans. More so than this, though, it is simply the ‘melancholy’ which has descended on St. James’ Park which has become the biggest issue, as Kristan Heneage, free-lance journalist and lifelong Newcastle fan describes. “Fans are tired of the current owner, and the fact the team are currently struggling feels like a direct consequence of his actions.”
“Ashley represents the antithesis of what a football club should be. At no point has he attempted to run the club with sporting integrity.”
“The fact Ashley is content with existence over progression makes him diametrically opposed to every Newcastle fan and that is what forges the disagreement between the two.”

Mike Ashley (right). Credit: Getty Images

This is a sentiment supported by other Newcastle fans. “Mike Ashley is like poisonous ivy climbing a wall, he cast nothing but a shadow over the club” says Magpies fan Oscar. “The takeover has always been important to Newcastle fans because of the hatred we all have for an owner who has no love for the club,” says another, Richard, a lifelong fan. “Something is wrong and corrupt at the top of this club” Richard continued.
“This is why the takeover has never been more important. We need change.”

Currently, that change looks set to be in the form of financier Amanda Staveley and her firm PCP Capital Partners. Her reported bid in late November of around £250 million was reportedly rebuffed but there remains a willingness for a deal to be done. Ashley had made it clear he wished for a deal to be completed by Christmas and Staveley was said to be keen to invest in the squad during the winter transfer window. At this stage, with no breakthrough in negotiations and the issue of having the deal ratified by the Premier League, it appears unlikely that the deal will be completed in time for money to be available in January. This could be an issue, as Heneage suggests: “It’s imperative. The current form they’re in proves there’s no assurances of survival. The squad requires a healthy dose of improvement come January.”

Amanda Staveley. Credit: Getty Images

On the other hand, simply the removal of Ashley and everything he’s associated with at Newcastle may be more than enough for many Magpies fans. Newcastle fans are sometimes portrayed as having an irrational entitlement to success, that they expect to be challenging for trophies every season, but speaking to them personally, it is clear that this couldn’t be further from the truth. “We’re not hunting trophies,” says Oscar. “We like the odd win on the weekend and a respectable finish in the league would do us.”
“No £50 million wonder players (although that would be nice); just some capable, talented, Premier league suited players that Rafa (Benitez) could work with.”

Therefore, the proposed takeover would by seen as a success by many, whomever takes charge as a result, simply due to the fact Ashley would be gone. If it is to be Staveley, Heneage believes the fact she is relatively unknown would not be an issue. “I think this is what makes the prospect of Amanda Staveley so fascinating. She is a total unknown quantity, but I think the strong sense of apathy felt by supporters means they would rather do business with someone they don’t know over Ashley. Newcastle’s sale is less about a proposed takeover of a professional football club and what that may bring, and more about an exorcism of melancholy and the aspiration towards mediocrity that has seeped into every facet of the club. Staveley may spend £1 million on players or £100 million, but fans don’t care, they just want someone different.

Even so, with a net-worth of more than £28 billion, and a record which includes brokering the extremely successful sale of Manchester City to Abu Dhabi-based investors in 2008, there could be great potential in a takeover by Staveley, although would still be complicated, as Heneage suggests.

Rafa Benitez could be an attractive proposition, says Heneage. Credit: Getty Images

“The top six seems like such an insurmountable aspect of the Premier League. I think what you can say is that Rafa Benitez, backed financially, could be an amazing and enticing proposition to a lot of potential players. As we saw with Everton, these transitions from mid-table to top 6 or higher are incredibly difficult and require precision planning, a bit of luck, and other intangibles. Whether Staveley can help the club achieve that remains to be seen, but it’ll be a fascinating watch if it does happen.”

So while there lays the lingering possibility that the takeover of Newcastle United could mean truly great things for such an historic club, it is evident that a takeover would mean so much more to Newcastle fans. An era which many Magpies fans wish never existed appears to be coming to an end, and the sooner it does, even if not before January, and potentially regardless of whatever outcome results, it seems, the better.

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