Until a fortnight ago Newcastle United enjoyed a status within the Premier League roughly equivalent to that of a house cat – a bit pointless but no trouble so harmless enough.
With their modest ambition of passing Go and collecting their £200 each year, Newcastle were never going to upset the apple cart so were never going to upset rival clubs.
Now they have suddenly grown claws all that has changed.
The most controversial buyout in English football history has rattled a lot of important cages. Notice has been served that their fearful competitors will do everything they can to keep the stopper in the Newcastle bottle.
There was a vivid example this week when the Premier League passed a resolution to outlaw any new commercial deals at clubs involving pre-existing business relationships going through for the next month while a permanent rule change is being drawn up.
This was a direct attempt to prevent, say, Saudia – Saudi Arabia’s national airline – becoming Newcastle’s stadium sponsor and paying an exorbitant amount to do so. As they received a £1bn loan last year from Newcastle’s owners PIF – the Saudi sovereign wealth fund – their involvement would not be allowed under the amended regulation.
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Newcastle’s new owners did themselves few favours with a confrontational approach which threatened legal action against the Premier League and executives of rival clubs if the blocking move went through. It hardened resolve against them.
But the Premier League is the free market at play, the capitalist wild west. The idea that Newcastle should be prevented from spending the money they can suddenly now bring in – so long as the Financial Fair Play obligations are met – is a cartel in operation.
Whatever you think of Saudi involvement in English football, once they are inside the tent they should be treated the same as everyone else. Rules should not be hastily re-written on the back of a fag packet specifically to counter them.
The other Premier League clubs are basically trying to prevent Newcastle doing a City by enforcing a protection racket.
If Uber or Starbucks or Disney or any of the countless other organisations PIF have bought into it want to take over as Newcastle’s new shirt sponsor, surely they would be more welcome as a global billboard for the Premier League than another gambling company – if only for variety’s sake?
Newcastle are the league’s new money – and new money always attracts snobbery and jealousy. They have quickly developed powerful enemies on the back of their wealth. But money buys the best lawyers as well as the best players.
The Saudis will get their way in the end however hard their rivals wriggle.
Save for the glorious exception of Leicester City in 2016, the story of the Premier League is that the rich guys always win.
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