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The Saudi Public Investment Fund’s (PIF) takeover of Premier League team Newcastle United has generated controversy about the extent of Gulf monarchy investments in European sports. Many accuse this purchase as a Saudi attempt to “sports-wash” its image in the west following the 2018 assassination of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Yet, and as much as it is logical to view the takeover as a desperate attempt by the Saudi crown prince to regain his prestige in the west, one should not ignore that it tracks with Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud’s (MbS) larger vision to end the monopoly of neighboring Gulf states in sectors such as sports, leisure and tourism. Though Newcastle United is hardly competitive, it remains to be seen how Riyadh will replicate the successes of Abu Dhabi, Doha, and Dubai in transforming the world of European football for its own benefit...
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