The Premier League’s new rules on owner-related commercial deals are facing their first major test as Newcastle United enter advanced talks with a Saudi Arabian firm to potentially become their next kit sponsor.
Clubs are now obliged to declare any related party transactions under an agreement struck after allegations of financial deception were first leveled at Manchester City following the Football Leaks furore.
Saudi-owned Sela, which has organized sporting events such as the annual Race of Champions, is said to be in detailed negotiations to replace the gambling company Fun88 as Newcastle’s lead sponsor.
With Telegraph Sport reporting this week how the club is plotting its biggest spend yet in the summer transfer window, major commercial deals can play a key role in offsetting the potential risk of breaching spending rules.
There is no explicitly advertised link between PIF, which is the majority owner at Newcastle, and Sela, but potential overlaps could be investigated. Rakan Al-Harthy is the founder and CEO of Sela Sport. PIF appeared to back his ventures. Records show the founder and chief executive of Sela Sport is Dr. Rakan Al-Harthy, who is also a director at Qiddia, a PIF-funded project to create the new “capital of entertainment, sports and arts” in Saudi Arabia. Sela says it was launched in 1995 to “commercialise events in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and position Saudi events among the leading in the world”.
Sela, whose headquarters are in Jeddah, is described by Sky News as the leading contender to secure a shirt deal with Newcastle, although sources close to the talks said the agreement may yet “fall apart”.
Moves to tighten sponsorship rules were led in 2021 by rival clubs of Newcastle who were desperate to close all available loopholes to stop the Saudi regime buying success like their City-owner counterparts did more than a decade ago.
Calls for a clampdown on owner-funded sponsors initially came after allegations were made during the Football Leaks scandal about Roberto Mancini at Manchester City. Mancini, who led City to their first Premier League title in 2012, was allegedly paid on top of his salary as a consultant with Al Jazira Sports and Cultural Club, which is controlled by City’s Abu Dhabi owners.
This season Premier League champions City were charged with 115 allegations of financial deception but the club vehemently denies wrongdoing.
Broaden your horizons with award-winning British journalism. Try The Telegraph free for 1 month, then enjoy 1 year for just $9 with our US-exclusive offer.