Exclusive: Amanda Staveley on her ambitions for Newcastle United, Steve Bruce's future – and her message to fans
It was a long day after a four long years.
In late 2017, Amanda Staveley had taken a seat in the directors’ box at St James’s Park for a home game against Liverpool.
Now, she was sat down fielding questions in a hotel nestled in a leafy superb of the city as part-owner of Newcastle United following a momentous few hours which had seen the end of Mike Ashley’s 14-year tenure as owner.
The Premier League had earlier approved a deal which saw Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) take an 80% stake the club. Staveley and Jamie Reuben, through RB Sport & Media, have each taken 10% stakes.
The plan had been to head to the stadium earlier in the day to start work, and meet Steve Bruce and the club’s players at the end of their training session, but paperwork delayed the deal’s completion by a few more hours.
That delay, coupled with the difficulty of safely accessing a stadium ringed by celebrating fans, meant that Staveley had to stay put at the hotel.
Thousands of supporters had converged next to the Sir Bobby Robson statue waiting for confirmation of the deal that had been all those years in the making.
The news everyone was waiting for finally came through just after 5pm.
Staveley, elated and exhausted, was overcome with emotion when shown an image of celebrating supporters gathered outside St James’s Park.
“I’m so touched – the whole thing has just been incredible,” said the financier. “You don’t feel you deserve that. You understand the responsibility you’ve taken on, and we’re not going to let people down, but also I’m not going to make promises I can’t keep too.”
It was messages from Newcastle fans that had kept Staveley and her partners going after the Premier League failed to approve the deal last year.
That delay, which was down to the issue of separation between the Saudi state and PIF, saw the sovereign wealth fund walk away from the proposed deal.
Many thousands of United fans urged Staveley not to give up – and she didn’t.
Asked if she had considered walking away, Staveley said: “I didn’t think it would be quite this difficult!
“But I have to say it’s worth it. It’s worth every sleepless night, because we are there, and we’re just excited about starting the work we need to start.
“Some days, I think, a year ago, there was some pretty dark days, and I thought ‘we’re not going to get there’. You just have to dust yourself off. My dad says ‘you never give up’.
“My first message (to fans) is thank you for all the incredible support you’ve given us, and we’re so grateful, and we don’t want to let anyone down,” said Staveley. “We want to make the communication between fans and the club very fluid.
“We would not be here today if it wasn’t for the fans and their persistence.
“I got the most incredible letters and emails. I read every one. We tried to respond to every one, but we got thousands and thousands. I was so important. It kept us going through dark days, and that’s why we’re here today.”
“Thank you to the Shields Gazette for all the support you’ve given us over the past few years. We’re just so touched and so honoured to be part of an incredible club, and to be part of this journey.
“We’re incredible grateful to all the amazing fans who’ve said ‘don’t give up – you’ll get there in the end’, and we have.”
“We’ve been working really hard, and we want to thank Mike, and especially the Premier League, because obviously they’ve been working really hard to get the deal agreed. It’s been pretty exhausting, and everybody’s really moved heaven and earth to get to where we need to go.
"I think I’ll still wake up tomorrow thinking ‘have we really got there – was it all a dream?’. But we did it.”
The past few years have been hard enough for Staveley and her investment partners, but the coming weeks, months and years will be harder still – and the 48-year-old chief executive officer of PCP Capital Partners is keen to get started.
Unable to head to the stadium, Staveley had a number of phone conversations once the deal was confirmed.
She spoke to Ashley, Bruce, managing director Lee Charnley, and captain Jamaal Lascelles. Staveley and her team will meet the squad on Monday ahead of the sold-out October 17 home game against Tottenham Hotspur.
“Obviously, I’ve spoken with Lee,” said Staveley. “I spoke to Mike. Just to say thank you for getting us there. Lee, I had a chat with. I spoke to Steve and Jamaal.
"I had a lovely chat with Jamaal. I wanted to say to Jamaal our respect to all the players, and that was important. We look forward to meeting everybody, and the match coming up against Tottenham.”
Winless Newcastle, right now, are 19th in the Premier League with three point from seven games.
The overwhelming majority of United fans want a managerial change – more than 94.3% of respondents to a pulse Newcastle United Supporters Trust survey said that Steve Bruce should resign as head coach “in the best interests” of the club – and investment is needed in January’s transfer window.
“At the moment what we can say is that we’re very aware we’re sitting in the relegation zone, and we’re going to do everything we can to make sure the football club gets out of that position,” said Staveley, whose group has been advised by Frank McParland, who worked with former Newcastle manager Rafa Benitez at Liverpool.
"We’ll make the decisions that need to be made, but we’re going to do a full review of all the club, not just on the footballing side, but the commercial side (too), and once we’ve done that, we’ll come back to everybody.”
Asked if a decision had been made on the future of Bruce, Staveley added: “At the moment, no.
"We really need to assess what we have, what we need, and how we’re going to build this, and how we’re going to build the club up. We’ve got to get investment into the Academy, investment into the training ground, into players.
"We’ve got an incredible group of players, but they need nurturing. It’s not just about investment into managers and individual players, it’s about looking at a plan that works together … that will get us to the top of the Premier League.
“We appreciate the gem we’re custodians of, and we’ll make sure that every single part of this club is dusted down, and we’ll invest in all levels. We’ve got to. It’s critical. It can’t happen without that.
"Please, rest assured we understand we’ve got a big job to do, and we’re not scared of rolling up our sleeves and getting on with it quickly. But, sometimes, we don’t want to make hasty decisions when we don’t know where we are today and what we have.
"We don’t want to make knee-jerk decisions, but we know we’ll be investing very heavily over the next few years.”
There was precious little investment during Ashley’s 14 years as owner. The club has stagnated on and off the field, while rivals have taken footballing and commercial strides forward.
The club’s infrastructure badly needs upgrading, and there’s also the promise of valuable investment in the city and community.
PIF, according to Staveley, see the “bigger picture”.
“Its not just about growth on the football pitch,” said Staveley. “It’s about growth on the Academy side and the infrastructure in the city. We’ve partnered with Jamie Reuben. We’ve worked with the Reuben family for over 10 years.
"One of the attractions, and one of the opportunities I had with PIF, is that they understand the bigger picture. They understand that sporting success comes with wider investment in the whole community.
"This club is at the heart of the community, and we’ve got to make sure we invest in all of the community at every level.”
Ultimately, though, the club’s new owners will be judged by success on the pitch.
And they have ambition, something we didn’t see during the Ashley era.
“We’re not short of ambition, I can tell you that,” said Staveley. “We know that we’re not going to get to where we want to today or next year, but we will get there. It takes time.
“It’s a long-term project. We’re patient investors. This is a very long-term partnership with the club and the fans. So we can’t just come in and do this overnight. It’s going to take some time.”
It will take time, but change, unquestionably, is coming.