Newcastle face scrutiny after signing £25m-a-year Saudi sponsorship deal

Newcastle have finalised a £25m-a-year front-of-shirt sponsorship deal with the leading Saudi Arabian events company Sela. The agreement will provide an early test of the Premier League’s new fair market value commercial regulations.

The multiyear contract is a sharp increase on the club’s £6.5m-a-season shirt sponsorship with the Chinese online gambling company Fun88, reflecting the team’s ascent to the top four and, with it, qualification for next season’s Champions League.

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Given that Sela is majority-owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which holds an 80% stake in Newcastle, the tie-up will automatically have to be scrutinised by an independent Premier League panel to determine whether it represents true market value.

Had Eddie Howe’s team failed to qualify for the Champions League it could have been a very interesting stress test of the rules but, with Newcastle part of Europe’s showpiece club competition, it is understood it would be a major shock were it not approved by the panel. No one involved expects it to founder at this stage.

Darren Eales, Newcastle’s chief executive, said Sela was “the perfect partner” for the club and that the deal had been signed after a “highly competitive commercial process”.

Eales said Sela, which has also developed property in Saudi Arabia, will help to establish a fan zone next to St James’ Park.

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“We team up at an exciting time in the history of both organisations given both share an ambitious vision to expand their brands globally,” he said. “Fan engagement is central to what we do at Newcastle United and, in Sela, we are partnering with an organisation with shared interests that has delivered incredible events and experiences to millions of people over many years.”

At a time when Saudi Arabia is becoming an aggressive player in the sports world – and the golf sphere in particular – the tie-up should also fulfil an unofficial public relations role in growing Newcastle’s appeal in the Gulf and wider Middle East.