Newcastle takeover by Saudi fund ‘90% certain’

Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth Public Investment Fund (PIF) has been identified as a major partner in the latest takeover bid for top-tier English Premier League soccer club Newcastle United, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The fund, which is chaired by the kingdom’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, is reportedly backing a deal alongside Dubai-based British financier, Amanda Staveley; her husband, Mehrdad Ghodoussi; and British billionaire property investors, David and Simon Reuben.

British newspaper the Guardian has reported that the deal, which values the Premier League club at UK£340 million (AUD$656.8 million), is ‘90 per cent certain’ to happen. A shell company, PZ Newco, was registered by Staveley to facilitate a potential investment on 6th January. PZ refers to Project Zebra – the code name for the planned Newcastle takeover.

The Magpies’ current owner, retail tycoon Mike Ashley, could sign off on an agreement very much in the short-term, according to the Guardian. However, Ashley has reportedly been unhappy with the massive leak and could potentially put the takeover in jeopardy.

It is also reported that Staveley hopes to assume a ten per cent stake in the final agreement. The exact level of Saudi involvement is uncertain, with the Athletic reporting that the Reuben family represent 20 per cent of the consortium.

According to the Guardian, due diligence has been completed and advanced talks have been ongoing for months. Staveley, who has failed with bids for Newcastle before, reportedly approached the Saudis regarding investment and is seeking to be the face of the club post-takeover.

The involvement of the PIF, one of the world’s largest investment operations, is controversial due to Saudi Arabia’s poor human rights record, lack of women’s rights, violent media suppression and its association with Islamic fundamentalism.

If an agreement is struck, it is reported that UK£200 million (AUD$383.6 million) has been allocated for investment in Newcastle’s playing squad and regeneration of the city.

If this big-money agreement goes through, it will give a significant boost to a club that has fallen in recent times compared to its former glory. The club currently sits 14th on the EPL table after 24 matches played, just seven points clear of the relegation places.

Liam Watson is the Co-Founder & Publisher of Soccerscene. He reports widely on football policy, industry matters and technology.

Federal Budget commits $97 million investment for sport programs

The 2024-25 Federal Budget, which was released on Tuesday night, includes more than $97 million over two years to the ASC to extend Sporting Schools, the Local Sporting Champions, and Local Para Champions programs, and participation funding to help more Australians get active.

This two-year extension runs until 30 June 2026 and helps kids of all different sports afford an opportunity to play at a local level if they come from and under privileged background.

Football Australia is a part of the Sporting Schools program, with each state offering participation Officers and local clubs that are ready to implement in-school and after-school programs for students of ages up to Year 8, plus all abilities programs.

Football Australia use this program to link local football clubs with schools to facilitate an ongoing relationship and provide further opportunity for students to continue their football journey outside of school, whether that be MiniRoos Kick Off, MiniRoos Club or Junior Football.

More than 24,000 young Australians will be supported with the Local Sporting Champions (LSC) and Local Para Champions (LSP) grants programs continuing for a further two years.

These are fantastic programs that have supported Australia’s best athletes including many Matildas like Courtney Nevin, Cortnee Vine, Alex Chidiac, Teagan Micah and Clare Hunt.

World Cup veteran’s Caitlin Foord and Ellie Carpenter also rose to success with assistance from the LSC program throughout their junior careers.

Australian Sports Commission CEO Kieren Perkins OAM mentions the importance of this investment to continue critical national sporting programs.

“Once again, I want to thank Minister Wells and the Australian Government for their continued support and investment in Australian sport,” Perkins said in a statement.

“This funding extends critical sport participation programs like the Participation Grant program and Sporting Schools which provides free and fun sporting opportunities to more than two million students each year.

“This follows last week’s announcement of $249.7 million to upgrade the AIS Campus to ensure our athletes have access to the world’s best testing and training facilities, and accommodation ahead of the Brisbane 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

This is a fantastic initiative that will benefit football amongst other sports and has a history of helping kids of all skill levels play in their respective sport.

The Federal Budget have put in almost $350 to improve sport, mostly around the 2032 Olympic Games but it is great to see some investment in the world game after the huge success of the Women’s World Cup last year.

The biggest Female Football Week to date draws to a close

Female Football week is at its climax across the country with each respective state firmly involved in what has been a monumental year of growth and perseverance with one of the hottest topics amongst the sporting plethora across the nation.

Symbolising the significant strides in which female football has made down under, off the back of its maiden World Cup hosting tenure.

Football Queensland throughout the grand occasion were busy shining a spotlight upon the continuous growth of participation, encouraging women of all ages to become involved and immersed within the global game.

Football Victoria – Commentary

Football Victoria (FV) celebrated women’s football week in style.

Round 8 of the National Premier League Women’s (NPLW) competition within Victoria was unique throughout its coverage, with every match throughout the round featuring a female commentator.

A monumental feat spearheaded by the FV Commentary team, this was the first time an all female commentary round was executed.

Football Queensland

FQ CEO Robert Cavallucci disclosed his appreciation for the momentous occasion via the FQ website.

“While celebrations like FFW serve as a crucial milestone in FQ’s journey towards achieving 50/50 gender parity by 2027 and helps to further reinforce our commitment to enhancing accessibility and inclusivity, our support is not confined to this week, as we remain dedicated to prioritising our female football community year-round.”

Football Queensland – Award Ceremony

Paying homage to Referees, Club Volunteers, Players and Community Champions of the year was conducted through awards up for grabs.

FQ showcased an award ceremony towards multiple facets of football throughout the state.

A nice incentive dedicated to the recognition and appraisal of the hard work undertaken by different areas of football.

The Female Football Week club of the year was awarded to Central Football Club following their extraordinary contribution to female football within Queensland.

Displayed throughout the clubs commitment to female football, the club are fully dedicated to the advancement of women’s football.

Harvesting a fostering environment throughout the club, alongside the nourishment of young promising female footballers has been symbolised by FQ.

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