Saudi Pro League boom won't affect us, says Newcastle United director

Magpies confident in PIF commitment despite huge outlay on SPL clubs

Sandro Tonali is one of three major signings made by Newcastle United this summer. Getty
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Newcastle United chief executive Darren Eales insists Saudi Arabia's enormous investment in domestic football will not come at a cost to the project at St James's Park.

The Gulf state’s Public Investment Fund, which owns an 80 per cent stake in Newcastle, has acquired a majority stake in the nation’s top four clubs – Al Nassr, Al Hilal, Al Ahli and Al Ittihad – and bankrolled a spending spree that has brought some of the sport's biggest names to the kingdom.

Meanwhile, on Tyneside, recruitment has remained steady and targeted, with a total spend of around £350 million across four transfer windows since the Saudi takeover.

Eales said: “An investment was made and Financial Fair Play is the regulation, so within those parameters everybody knew what the guard rails are in terms of what you can spend and how you can spend it.

“Our job is to try to now grow Newcastle United to where we want it to be within the regulations which every club has to follow.”

While the level of investment in players is a far cry from under previous chairman Mike Ashley, many expected a bout of sustained spending given the PIF is worth in the region of £514 billion.

But Eales, who admitted the emergence of the Saudi Pro League could lead to calls for a change to spending regulations in Europe, says that the club and its owners are happy to grow with a long-term perspective.

“The reality is they came in and it has been incredible, fighting relegation to finishing 11th, then finishing fourth. We have very shrewd operators in our ownership group," he said.

“We have got a great skill-set and set of people who have experience in various businesses. They understand it is a long-term plan not short-term.”

The summer window has seen Sandro Tonali, Harvey Barnes and Tino Livramento arrive to reinforce the Newcastle squad as the club prepares for Champions League football for the first time in two decades.

Meanwhile, the books were balanced somewhat by the departure of Allan Saint-Maximim to Saudi club Al Ahli, raising ethical concerns about a player effectively moving from one PIF-owned club to another.

But Newcastle's technical director, Dan Ashworth, said: “We are absolutely convinced it is fair market value and without going into the actual price it was, there is plenty evidence of players of similar age, similar position, similar ability, similar CV that are moving for similar amounts outside the Saudi league.”

Updated: August 11, 2023, 8:51 PM