Amanda Staveley, Reuben Brothers, and the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund looked poised to finally deliver Newcastle United fans the one thing they crave more than anything else: to be rid of current owner Mike Ashley. However, at the 11th hour, or rather, the 17th week, the consortium officially pulled the plug on the deal that would have made the once-domestically glorious club one of the richest in the world.
With dreams of being the next Manchester City, a club pulled from mediocrity to European titans under new Middle-Eastern ownership, anticipation ranged from a steady infusion of top-class transfers to a long-overdue stadium revamp. Everything looked to be in place for the St James’ Park experience to be taken to the next level, but it’s all crumbled away now.
Consortium officially planned St James’ Park improvements
Prior to Ashley taking over the club, plans were in place for a £300 million development of St James’ Park (the same number that the club was to be purchased for by the consortium) which would increase capacity to 60,000 and develop the surrounding area. Those plans were scrapped following the 2007 takeover, keeping the capacity of the ground at 52,354, with the stadium being somewhat neglected ever since.
Throughout Ashley’s ownership, there have been growing cries for updates to St James’ Park that don’t include new advertising rights or changes to the stadium’s name. Luckily, the sponsorship deal with Wonga in 2012 thwarted plans of it becoming a sponsor-named arena, with the company purchasing the naming rights and changing it back to St James’ Park as a part of the agreement.
However, long-awaited renovations and revamps culminated in a makeover last season, which saw the outward-facing parts of the stands given a new paint job, but fans continued to cite poor conditions within the ground, as seen in the video below.
As a part of the latest £300 million takeover attempt of Newcastle United, an ambitious 350-page document was produced by the consortium to rundown their plans of making the club a power in Europe. These plans reportedly included a revamp of the iconic ground. However, Ashley has seemingly quashed plans to expand by selling the land by the stadium for development last year.
While still in the limbo of Ashley wanting to sell but prospective buyers not concluding deals, it seems unlikely that neither St James’ Park nor Newcastle United will see any substantial renovations or improvements.
Interesting summer ahead for Newcastle
Executives at Newcastle, specifically Owen Brown, had already been partaking in digital transfer meetings with the prospective new owners, planning the perfect targets to sign this summer. Names like Philippe Coutinho and Gareth Bale were being thrown around, but under existing ownership, expectations should be tempered. While the club did spend £39.6 million on striker Joelinton, who scored four times in 44 appearances, United’s net spend was a mere £33.5 million.
Expecting ownership to be tight with the purse strings again next season, many of the best betting sites offering bet-and-get bonuses see the Magpies as contenders for relegation. Only the newly promoted teams; Aston Villa, and Crystal Palace, have shorter odds than Newcastle’s 3/1 to get relegated. Manager Steve Bruce did exceed expectations to get Newcastle to 13th, but that may end up working against his transfer efforts in 2020/21, with ownership seeing the team as already being good enough to stay up.
In the Premier League, teams that don’t see ample turnover and improvement in their ranks end up battling for relegation. While the empty stadiums for the summer would be the perfect time to renovate the neglected St James’ Park, it could also be seen as unnecessary right now, given the empty seats and the fact that the squad will need reinforcements.
There’s a lot of uncertainty around Newcastle United right now, but perhaps worse than a legendary stadium going without some much-needed revamping, is that the seventh-largest stadium in the English leagues may face relegation from the top-flight.