Newcastle United future sponsor hints as £16.5 billion venture launched by Saudi owners

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PIF have just launched their next business venture, but how do Newcastle United fit in?

Yesterday, Newcastle United’s owners launched a new business venture estimated to contribute £16.5bn to PIF’s wealth.

Riyadh Air is set to be the national carrier airline of Saudi Arabia, owned fully by the same Private Investment Fund which owns Newcastle. When the airline was announced a few months ago many believed it would be in contention to be United’s next front-of-shirt sponsor. But, after countless rumours, last week Saudi events company Sela were confirmed in the coveted position.

This doesn’t mean Riyadh Air should be dismissed, however.

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Newcastle chairman and PIF Governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan will also act as chairman for the airline- his second job appointment of the week after last Tuesday’s announcement he will chair the board of the new LIV-PGA Golf merger.

Riyadh Air’s now-competitor Saudia flew the Newcastle United team to their warm-weather training camp back in December suggesting the new airline will work with the squad in the future.

But people still believe the PIF-owned company will still grace the front of United shirts in the future, so long as PIF can get around financial fair play, fair market value and UEFA rules.

(L-R) Peter Silverstone, CCO at Newcastle United; Ibrahim Mohtaseb, Senior Vice President at Sela; Darren Eales, CEO at Newcastle United.(L-R) Peter Silverstone, CCO at Newcastle United; Ibrahim Mohtaseb, Senior Vice President at Sela; Darren Eales, CEO at Newcastle United.
(L-R) Peter Silverstone, CCO at Newcastle United; Ibrahim Mohtaseb, Senior Vice President at Sela; Darren Eales, CEO at Newcastle United.

In 2021 the Premier League decided Newcastle would be permitted to arrange sponsorship deals with Saudi Arabian companies if the league believes them to be of ‘fair market value.’ This is to prevent clubs from artificially inflating their sponsorship incomes in order to increase their spending. So, all commercial deals over £1 million must be vetted.

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While Newcastle’s deal with Sela is a ‘multi-year’ one, Riyadh Air is expected to sit on the sidelines for some time. But they are likely to play a part in their future.

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In a statement announcing Riyadh Air, a spokesperson said: “Riyadh Air will be a world-class airline, adopting the global best sustainability and safety standards across its advanced fleet of aircraft equipped with the latest cutting-edge technology. The airline is expected to add USD20 billion to non-oil GDP growth, and create more than 200,000 direct and indirect jobs.

“As a wholly owned PIF subsidiary, the new national airline is set to benefit from PIF’s investment expertise and financial capabilities while expanding on the company’s operations to become a leading national carrier. The new national airline represents PIF’s latest investment in the sector, along with the recently announced King Salman International Airport masterplan.

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“Riyadh Air aims to enhance customers’ journey while connecting them to over 100 destinations around the world by 2030; through offering an exceptional experience with an authentic, warm Saudi hospitality at its heart.

“The airline will provide tourists from around the world the opportunity to visit Saudi Arabia’s cultural and natural attractions.

“Riyadh Air will also serve as a catalyst for the Saudi National Transport and Logistics Strategy and the National Tourism Strategy by increasing air transport options, raising cargo capacity and, in turn, growing international passenger traffic.

“The establishment of Riyadh Air is part of PIF’s strategy to unlock the capabilities of promising sectors that can help drive the diversification of the local economy. It will enable a more financially resilient aviation ecosystem in Saudi Arabia, supporting the industry’s global competitiveness in line with Vision 2030.’”

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