Opinions differ on what people want from the club they support. Some want trophies and success on the field only. Others prioritize entertainment and time spent with thousands of their closest friends.
I’ve been a fan of Newcastle United for 20 years. The MLS eliminated my club in that league, the Miami Fusion. I needed to find a new club to follow.
I chose to support NUFC for several reasons. For one, they had a passionate fan base. Then, they weren’t the fair-weather-fan’s choice. Finally, the Fusion’s colorful manager was former Newcastle player and native Ray Hudson.
The first match I watched as a Newcastle supporter was on September 15, 2001. The Magpies won 4-3 over Manchester United at a full St. James’ Park. What more could someone thousands of miles away ask for?
Newcastle’s change of ownership years in the waiting
The Mike Ashley Era differed dramatically from that first fixture I saw.
The games lacked fun, the team lacked home, and the good days were few and far between.
For us Americans, trying to find matches in the Championship in 2009-10 was extremely difficult. Often, we required dodgy streams of games.
For much of the last decade, Ashley’s plan seemed to be to make as much money as possible for himself. Simultaneously, he kept the club barely afloat in the Premier League rather than challenging for top spots.
Even then, it didn’t always work. After only four relegations in 117 years, the club suffered two in seven seasons under Ashley.
Rafa Benitez’s stint at St. James’ Park ended after only a few years due to lack of support from Ashley.
Now, Steve Bruce manages the squad because nobody else would work for Ashley. Currently, a threadbare squad is stuck in 19th place. Newcastle is winless in seven games with three draws.
As of now, the struggling is limited. Newcastle’s change of ownership landed the club with a consortium led by the Saudi government’s Public Investment Fund. Also, Amanda Staveley’s PCP Capital Partners and the Reuben Brothers’ RB Sports & Media own ownership stakes.
The consortium pledged to rebuild the club, both on and off the pitch. Also they plan a substantial investment in the city and its surroundings.
Many considered the PIF to be undeserving of ownership of a Premier League side. That stems from the less-than-stellar track record of the Saudi government in regards to human rights.
The U.K. government does frequent business with Saudi Arabia. Also, there are not too many restrictions on Saudi investment. Therefore, there is not thorough-enough support for opposition to this takeover.
Expectations for New Ownership
What should we expect from Newcastle’s change in ownership?
The PIF has deeper pockets than the combined wealth of the other 19 owners. Yet, there are certain limitations for investment. Still, the stifling constraints of the Ashley era are certainly a thing of the past.
Staveley’s statement yesterday confirms this.
“It will take time to get to where we want to but we have big ambitions for the club. We’re going to invest not just in players but in the club.”
It’s unlikely that the conditions that caused the loans to fall through this past transfer window for want of a few million pounds will not recur. The next manager will not be a last resort as Steve Bruce was.
READ MORE: Where to watch the Premier League on U.S. TV.
The simple fact that Ashley is gone earned the consortium an enormous amount of goodwill.
Mike Ashley burned bridges with Newcastle icons like Kevin Keegan. He refused to back a player like Jonas Gutierrez who was undergoing cancer treatment. He did not support a top-tier manager like Rafa Benitez after he stayed with the club despite relegation.
The new owners understand this. They indicated they will work to earn, and keep, the trust of the fans.
Fans hope Newcastle’s change of ownership beings a new dawn for the club. Since the announcement, the Newcastle ticket sales site traffic rocketed up. The 8,000 empty seats at St. James’ Park for most of the season will likely be filled again by next Sunday.
Coincidentally, NUFC face Tottenham, one of the two most vocal clubs against the PIF’s purchasing of the club.
Before last night, it would have been hard to find anyone who thought Newcastle would be able to get a result against Spurs.
Now, who knows? Hope has returned to Tyneside; “We don’t demand a club that wins, we demand a club that tries”.
Author: Bruce Gottesman