UEFA set out stance on controversial Newcastle United ownership

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The head of European football's governing body has given his take on Newcastle United's Saudi-led owners.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has dismissed concerns over Newcastle United’s Saudi-led owners and believes the Magpies are ‘a good example’ of how to run a football club.

Over two years have passed since a consortium led by the Gulf state’s Public Investment Fund completed a prolonged £320m takeover at St James Park and brought an end to Mike Ashley’s 14-year ownership of the club. The long awaited completion of the deal brought criticism and suspicion from several parties with Saudi Arabia’s human rights record cited alongside state involvement in running a Premier League club.

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After the new owners provided ‘legally binding assurances’ to allow the deal to pass the Premier League’s fit and proper owners test, changes at St James Park were rapid as the consortium looked to improve matters on and off the pitch. Several key appointments were made behind the scenes and the Magpies squad was strengthened with the likes of Kieran Trippier and Bruno Guimaraes just months after Eddie Howe had replaced Steve Bruce as Magpies manager.

Progress was rapid as the new look United preserved their Premier League status before going on to qualify for the Champions League for the first time in two decades and reach their first major cup final this century during their first full season under their Saudi-led owners. Progress during the current season has been a challenge as Newcastle contend with Financial Fair Play regulations.

But Ceferin, who has been UEFA president since September 2016, believes the PIF-led consortium are showing the right way to develop a club at the top level and insisted he had no concerns about state involvement at St James Park.

Speaking said via The Guardian: ”In England, I think the Saudi-owned club is a good example of how you should work. Because Newcastle didn’t buy superstars yet they qualified for the Champions League. I was surprised. I expected them to buy many players for the new season, but it wasn’t the case and they played very well.

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"I’m not worried about state-owned clubs as long as they respect the rules. I’m more worried about hedge fund-owned clubs. With hedge funds, you never know exactly who is behind them. It’s very hard to know because they are, many times, managing money for investors. Where I see a big difference, and maybe this is a bit simplistic, is that state-owned clubs want to win. Whether it’s also for name-washing or not, I don’t enter into this. But they want to win.

"With purely financial funds, it’s important to get money and winning is not the main goal. For state-owned clubs, the goal is not to take money out, so I think those clubs should be more sustainable. With the others, it’s very hard to know who is behind it. It can also be a hedge fund where a state is behind it. But I prefer that it’s clear ownership. And the rules are clear: if they don’t respect them, they get punished.”

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