Newcastle agree massive new shirt sponsor with Saudi-based firm

 (Newcastle United/Getty)
(Newcastle United/Getty)

Newcastle United have confirmed a new front-of-shirt sponsorship deal with Sela, a Saudi Arabian events and experiences organisation.

The St. James’ Park club describe the arrangement as a “multi-year partnership”, and while no details over the financial arrangements were given by the club, several reports have placed the deal in the £25 million per year bracket.

A previous arrangement with Fun88 has been cut short, claim reports, and while no financial details have been made public over the exact value of that arrangement, the initial agreement was worth around £6.5m per year. An extension and potential renegotiation has occurred since that partnership started in 2017. Fun88 have been retained as an “official Asian betting partner”, the club say.

The new shirt sponsor, however, is likely to be seen as a major test of the new Premier League related-party deals and market value rules.

Sela’s website states the company is owened by the Public Investment Fund (PIF), who are the primary owners of Newcastle United. The club’s chief executive Darren Eales said Sela were chosen following a “highly competitive commercial process”.

Premier League clubs agreed in April to remove all betting companies from front-of-shirt sponsorships, though that is a delayed approach which does not kick in until the 2025/26 season.

Separate to betting companies in isolation, new top flight rules state “Associated Party Transactions” - such as sponsorship deals - have to be submitted for a “Fair Market Value Assessment”.

The Independent reported recently that senior executives in the English game had questioned “whether the regulations adequately cover the situation”, given the layers overlapping the two organisations between the Newcastle and Sela deal. The Saudi company was founded by Dr Rakan Al-Harthy, who is also named as a director of Qiddiya, an entertainment project similarly owned by PIF. Newcastle chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan also sits on the Qiddiya board, which is chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman - who is also the PIF chairman.

While Newcastle’s new deal certainly represents an enormous uptick compared to their previous one, it yet lags behind some Premier League rivals. Chelsea’s deal with Three, which expires this summer, was reportedly worth £40m per year, Liverpool’s contract with Standard Chartered in the region of £50m a year and Man City’s Etihad package is worth £67m a season.

A statement from Newcastle CCO Peter Silverstone regarding the sponsorship deal read: “Sela joins us on our exciting journey back into the Uefa Champions League, enabling us to reach and engage with an even greater global audience together. We are proud to put their brand at the front and centre of our next stage of growth as an elite global Premier League club.

“Our partnership will provide a key gateway to growing our fanbase globally, and specifically in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, while showcasing Sela’s activities and iconic destinations and properties, as they look to diversify their business activities in the UK and beyond. Sela has an incredible track record in delivering experiences across recreational sectors, and particularly in marketing sporting assets and properties including the Spanish Super Cup and Italian Super Cup.

“We believe they will market our club and brand accordingly, boosting our aim to be the most supported Premier League club in Saudi Arabia - a country with a young, digitally-savvy population that is hugely passionate about football.”