Newcastle United, the Premier League football club owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, is in talks to sign a shirt sponsorship deal with a Saudi company that is also owned by the PIF, according to three people with direct knowledge of the matter.
If the talks come to fruition, Sela will replace gambling company Fun88 on the front of Newcastle’s match day shirts. Premier League clubs have agreed to phase out front-of-shirt gambling sponsors by the end of the 2025-26 season in the wake of UK government pressure.
However, the people familiar with the Sela talks said no deal has been signed with the Saudi sports, culture, and entertainment events company.
Sela’s website says it is owned by Saudi’s PIF. The PIF’s website also lists Sela as a portfolio company. One of the people said a sponsorship could be worth more than £20mn if it goes ahead.
PIF’s ownership of Sela would fall under Premier League rules that were put in place following PIF’s £305mn Newcastle takeover in 2021, and which were designed to ensure related party transactions are struck at fair market value. The rules are meant to prevent clubs from striking artificially high sponsorship deals that would give them an unfair advantage.
Newcastle, PIF and the Premier League declined to comment. Sela did not respond to a request for comment.
All related party deals must be submitted to the Premier League for fair market value assessment. All deals worth more than £1mn are also scrutinised. The league has a data bank of commercial deals for reference and makes use of an independent third-parties to assess “fair market value”.
Clubs, which are allowed to challenge the assessment, can alter the value of a deal to bring it in line with fair market value in response to Premier League feedback.
Newcastle has previously partnered with Saudi Arabian Airlines, the national carrier, for the players to take part in warm weather training in Riyadh. Noon, an online retailer based in the Gulf and backed by PIF, is already Newcastle’s official shirt sleeve partner.
The talks with Sela were first reported by Sky News.
The potential deal shows how Saudi money has transformed the club both on the pitch and also commercially since 2021. The consortium also includes British financier Amanda Staveley and the billionaire Reuben brothers.
Chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, PIF has poured money into sport as part of Saudi Arabia’s plans to reduce its reliance on oil and modernise the economy.
PIF originally agreed to acquire Newcastle in April 2020 but completion was delayed for more than a year amid concerns over the country’s human rights record and broadcast piracy. Former Premier League chair Gary Hoffman resigned in November 2021 amid anger from rival clubs over his handling of the Newcastle deal.
Managed by Eddie Howe, Newcastle have qualified for next season’s Uefa Champions League after guaranteeing a place in the Premier League top four.
Qualification to Europe’s elite club tournament opens new sponsorship opportunities, boosts ticket revenue and broadcast revenues. Newcastle have not played in the Champions League since 2002-03, when prolific striker Alan Shearer was still playing for the club.
Newcastle were languishing in 19th place in the league when Howe took charge after the PIF takeover, putting the club at risk of relegation to the Championship, the second tier of English football. The turnround in the club’s fortunes means it will play against top European sides next season and generate more revenue to help fund its plans to compete for trophies.
Newcastle made a net loss of almost £71mn in 2021-22 on annual revenues of £180mn, as staff costs rose by nearly 60 per cent year on year to £170mn owing to additions to the playing squad.
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