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Newcastle in ‘advanced’ shirt sponsorship talks with Saudi company Sela

Deal with PIF-owned events business would provide first real test of Premier League's new rules on related party transactions.

25 May 2023 Sam Carp

Getty Images

  • Sela now ‘leading contender’ to replace Fun88
  • Outgoing deal with gambling firm reportedly worth UK£6.5m a year

Top-flight English soccer club Newcastle United are close to agreeing a shirt sponsorship deal with Saudi events company Sela, according to multiple reports.

The story was first reported by Sky News, which said that the Premier League side is in ‘advanced talks’ for Sela to become its biggest commercial partner.

Sky News added that the value of the deal was unclear, although The Times reported last month that Newcastle had sealed a shirt sponsorship deal worth UK£25 million (US$31 million) a year with a company from a Middle Eastern country other than Saudi Arabia.

Sky News claims Sela has now emerged as the ‘leading contender’ to replace gambling company Fun88 on the front of Newcastle’s playing shirts and said a deal could be announced as soon as next month. The report also cautioned that the agreement could yet fall through.

Either way, the deal would provide the first real test of the Premier League’s new rules on related party transactions should it be confirmed.

Sela is backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which owns 80 per cent of Newcastle after leading a UK£300 million (US$370 million) purchase of the club in 2021.

The takeover was swiftly followed by the Premier League introducing new regulations to ensure that clubs do not gain an unfair financial advantage by agreeing commercial deals at inflated prices with companies linked to their owners.

The rules dictate that deals must be struck at fair market value, which will be determined by an assessment carried out by an independent third party.

Newcastle’s outgoing deal with Fun88 is reportedly worth UK£6.5 million (US$8 million) a year, which is around a quarter of the figure being quoted for their next shirt sponsorship agreement.

However, the club will be confident of justifying the rising value of its shirt inventory having recently secured a return to the Uefa Champions League, European club soccer’s premier competition, for next season. The Magpies currently sit third in the Premier League, four points clear of fifth-placed Liverpool with one game to play.

Established in 1995, Sela describes itself as Saudi Arabia’s ‘first Fifa-recognised athletes’ representation company’. It expanded its operations in 2005 to become a broader sports marketing business and now has strong ties to soccer in Saudi Arabia, serving as the commercial and operational arm of the country’s top-flight league.

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