- Agreement for PIF-owned Newcastle is not with a company from Saudi Arabia
- Fun88 deal worth approximately UK£6.5m a year
- Newcastle continue to deepen Middle Eastern commercial ties
English top-flight soccer club Newcastle United have agreed a new front-of-shirt sponsorship deal with a Middle Eastern company worth an estimated UK£25 million (US$31.2 million) a year, according to The Times.
The agreement for the Premier League outfit, which is owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), is reportedly not with a company from the kingdom.
The pact will kick in from the 2023/24 season and comes after Newcastle negotiated an early release from their deal with Chinese sports betting brand Fun88. That partnership predated the club’s Saudi-backed takeover and is worth in the region of UK£6.5 million (US$8.1 million) a year.
The Times reports that Newcastle believe the new tie-up with the unnamed Middle Eastern company will fall inside the Premier League’s ‘fair market value’, a new regulation introduced in December 2021 that requires clubs to seek approval on lucrative deals.
According to the Guardian, if a club has a proposal worth more than UK£1 million (US$1.2 million) from an entity with a perceived link to their owners they must go before the top flight’s board to prove that it is of fair market value.
Even if this reported arrangement is not with a Saudi Arabian company, there is a feeling of inevitability to all this. Newcastle’s commercial ties with the Middle East have, unsurprisingly, continued to deepen since the club’s takeover in October 2021.
Since the new owners came in, the Magpies have inked a sleeve deal with PIF-backed ecommerce platform Noon, named the national flag carrier Saudia as the official airline partner of the team’s Riyadh winter tour and partnered with Saudi gaming firm VOV. Even the club’s away kit this season bears a striking resemblance to the Saudi national side’s jersey.
Newcastle are a club making great strides on and off the pitch. They are set to qualify for the Uefa Champions League this season, while commercial interest in a sleeping giant of a team now rapidly awakening continues to grow.
It is no shock that Newcastle have targeted the Middle East to prop up their commercial revenue – other clubs have leaned into their owners’ national links in the past. The difference here, though, is the closeness of Saudi Arabia to Newcastle. The Magpies have not broken any Premier League rules. But, once again, it reaffirms that the club is a pawn in the kingdom’s mission to overhaul its image on the global stage. The criticism that has garnered will not go away, even as more Middle Eastern sports sponsorships become the norm.