'It's good for the development of football' – UEFA president welcomes PIF-style investment despite Newcastle United takeover failure

The takeover of Newcastle United by the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund would have been seen as a welcome investment by UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin - as long as they played by the rules.

Tuesday, 25th August 2020, 12:38 pm
COLOGNE, GERMANY - AUGUST 21: Aleksander Ceferin, President of UEFA fist bumps with Match Referee, Danny Makkelie following the UEFA Europa League Final between Seville and FC Internazionale at RheinEnergieStadion on August 21, 2020 in Cologne, Germany. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
COLOGNE, GERMANY - AUGUST 21: Aleksander Ceferin, President of UEFA fist bumps with Match Referee, Danny Makkelie following the UEFA Europa League Final between Seville and FC Internazionale at RheinEnergieStadion on August 21, 2020 in Cologne, Germany. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

The PIF-led bid, with PCP and Reuben Brothers, was withdrawn last month with the Premier League yet to make a decision on whether the potential new owners were 'fit and proper' via their owners' and directors' test.

The buyers cited test delays, following 17 weeks of waiting, as well as the changing financial landscape, while Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has pointed the finger firmly back at the consortium with claims they failed to provide the correct information and refused the offer of independent mediation to progress the deal.

Buyers and seller - Mike Ashley - remain committed to the £300 million deal.

In principle, Ceferin admits the game's European governing body would have no issue with sovereign wealth funds and state-linked money buying out more football clubs under its jurisdiction.

Champions League finalists PSG are Qatari state-funded, while Manchester City are also Abu Dhabi state-linked.

But Ceferin insists any state-funded owners must continue to play by the Financial Fair Play rules, set out by UEFA.

“If it is within the regulation, I am not concerned," Ceferin told Reuters.

“Since we distribute almost 90% of all the money back to the national associations and clubs, I would love to have even more revenues because it is good for the development of football.

“You have to know that without UEFA distributing the funds, out of 55 national associations close to 50 would be bankrupt and then children couldn’t play in those countries.

“So for us it is very important that we allow investments to come, but within the regulation (and) bearing in mind Financial Fair Play and competitive balance."

The Saudi deal is understood to have hit the blocks when the Premier League requested the state be named as the majority shareholder due to the close links with PIF.

Despite reports of interest in clubs elsewhere, it’s not thought PIF have any other football investments lined up, although AS Roma, now sold, was seen as a potential Plan B for the kingdom's investment portfolio.

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