Kylian Mbappé. Erling Haaland. Rahim Sterling. These are just a few of the names of superstars who have been linked with transfers to Newcastle United after Saudi Arabia took control of the sleepy northern club through its Public Investment Fund (PIF). History has shaken football and is a turning point for the Premier League.
None of the aforementioned players will find themselves at the Toon anytime soon, but the fact that fans and the media even dare to dream shows the unimaginable wealth of the new Saudis. The Magpies have replaced PSG as the richest operation in world football, with their new owners valued somewhere around the $ 440 billion mark (for context, Man City’s Sheikh Mansour is next richest. England, estimated at $ 42 billion). In terms of size, Newcastle have a passionate local fan base and undoubted potential, but have been comfortably mediocre for much of recent history. It’s a bit like the New York Knicks, but without the same geographic sparkle.
Some fans are raving about the news – the former owner and widely despised outcast Mike “fat man” Ashley has been ousted by the closest thing to an IRL King Midas – while to others it feels more like a nightmare. living; washing of sport by a brutal regime with an atrocious human rights record. You could write a book the size of St James’ Park to debate the ethics of it all.
There has been talk of what will happen to players, management and even fans once the PIF gets their feet under the table at Newcastle. But what about the business partners, namely their kit supplier? Could a PSG x Jordan Brand-style tie-up be in sight soon? If you’re new to all of this, remember that football clubs have the flexibility to negotiate their own deals, unlike the NBA, where the league negotiates on behalf of its teams.
You probably don’t know Castore, Newcastle’s current kit supplier, who signed a six-year contract with the club worth a relatively modest $ 7million a year this summer. Originally marketed as a ‘luxury sports brand’, the company was founded by athletic brothers Tom and Phil Beahon in 2015. Supported financially by an anonymous wealthy British family (speculations range from the Reuben brothers to Mohsin and Zuber Issa, by the way, absurdly, Ashley himself), they’ve carved out a niche for themselves as a more expensive and supposedly more premium version of Under Armor. (Personally, I think the product sucks, and there’s a lot to be said for the entire luxury schtick.)
Castore’s big break came when Andy Murray signed a sponsorship deal in 2017 (although he was way past his best, the tennis legend remains a top name for audiences in Europe and especially in Britain). Since then it has spread to areas such as cricket, rugby and, of course, football. Scottish champions Rangers were his first signatory, followed by Wolves and more recently Newcastle. The response to their gear from fans has been mixed so far, with some citing poor quality and a lack of variety in inventory.
When signing at Newcastle in July, the Beahons would not have envisioned that in four months the Mapgies would become the biggest story in world sport. Were they lucky or will they soon be replaced by a big fish?
PIF’s interest in Newcastle dates back to well before Castore’s arrival as a technical partner. With that in mind, it’s no exaggeration to think that Ashley and the previous regime would have inserted some sort of exit clause allowing any new owner to buy out the existing deal and bring in any partner they choose. After all, the kit supplier is of paramount importance to any club, both in terms of money and marketing. It also wouldn’t be the first time a team has had such a partnership – Roma and Nike prematurely ended their 10-year contract in July.
For the sake of speculation, even though there is no fixed number for the buyout, and it would cost over $ 120 million to do so (the length of the deal plus additional compensation), this money is proverbial food for the new sheikh’s chickens. . Now that they have real mid-term ambitions to play in the UEFA Champions League, the club are also a much more attractive proposition for the outside parties. The sales pitch is completely different from where the Castore contract was signed, and they had, other than his staunch local fan base, no real USP to differentiate themselves from other mid-table clubs in the league.
Ashley is a notoriously slippery character who’s basically used Newcastle as a billboard for her Sports Direct business over the years (think Dick’s Sporting Goods, only 100 times stickier). The PIF has already pulled off the table after trying to buy the club before and, with due diligence, surely would have anticipated all kinds of onerous deals. With the kit sponsor having signed up for the foreseeable future, there is every chance that their negotiators could use the information as bargaining chips to reduce the agreed flow of club purchase. It is clear that the new owner is here for the long haul, and six years with Castore is not at all in the grand scheme of things.
The two scenarios described above are win-win for Castore. Either they get a healthy lump sum after being redeemed, or they stay on the jerseys of a team that is sure to be in the front page headlines around the world in the future. Which scenario would they prefer to have?
Brand influence and value are essential when it comes to new entrants to the fashion scene, and it is impossible to put a price on the exposure that a great adidas or Nike superstar would bring wearing the logo phoenix de Castore every week. The Beahons have yet to comment on the news of the takeover – to be expected given the negative headlines surrounding the new Saudi owners – but it seems unlikely that they will experience any kind of moral dilemma when it comes to to work with their new partners. After all, they were happy to get in the saddle with Ashley, whose image is hardly flawless. Sports brands have usually never been too much of a bother in this regard. Scratch past the shiny varnish of football, and you’ll find that there are questionable financiers everywhere – it’s just that some are worse than others. Certainly Saudi Arabia, which made headlines not so long ago after allegedly ordering the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in his own embassy, would rank first (or should it be bottom?) from afar.
When PSG owner Nasser Al-Khelaifi unveiled Lionel Messi at Parc De Princes this summer, he declared them to be the most powerful brand in the world. There was Messi. There was Jordan Brand and Nike. There was Paris. Newcastle are the opposite in every way imaginable. Located just a 90-minute drive from the Scottish border, it’s a bustling town with friendly locals and popular nightlife, but doesn’t have the allure of London or even Manchester (think more about Eldon Square than La Samaritaine by Bernard Arnault). “It’s grim in the North,” as the saying goes. If you ever visit, remember to pack warm clothes.
The club’s marketing department will not yet make plans to take on Fabian Allegre and his elite squad, but rest assured, when the biggest names start to arrive and the club start to gain ground abroad, it will be the same for tastes. from Nike and adidas. We’ll find out how they plan to introduce the club to the world in due course, but whatever happens, Castore and the Toon Army are about to take one hell of a ride. Don’t expect this to happen overnight.