In a grand, wood-panelled room usually reserved for weddings inside the quaint Jesmond Dene House here on Tyneside, Amanda Staveley began a relationship that supporters of Newcastle United will be praying proves a marriage made in heaven.
Just moments earlier news had landed of the completion of the £305million Saudi-led takeover, backed by the country’s £700billion Public Investment Fund. And here was Staveley, the 48-year-old British businesswoman, fronting the deal as part of a consortium who now rank as the richest football-club owners in the world.
After completing her first round of broadcast interviews – interrupted briefly by the jubilant sound of car horns outside – Staveley invited Sportsmail to her hotel suite to discuss the takeover that has made world headlines. Not that the headlines were always kind.
Amanda Staveley wore a big smile after successfully leading a takeover of Newcastle United
Fans celebrated on the streets outside St James’ Park following completion of the £305m deal
When she failed to buy the club in 2017 and was labelled a time-waster by Mike Ashley, she was branded a ‘fraud’ in some quarters. And again last year when the deal involving PIF collapsed.
‘I remember those headlines,’ she said. ‘I thought it was dead last year. I was shocked. It was a tough day. But I’m tenacious. I’m still quite stunned that we’ve got to this day.
‘I just thought it’s the right club. It’s the only club for us, for me, and I fell in love the first time I went to a match (in November, 2017). I just needed to find the right investment partners, and PIF are incredible partners. They are obviously very wealthy. And that’s sometimes daunting, but they are very commercially astute and make sensible decisions.
‘Their motivation is that it’s a great club, and we think it’s going to make the most incredible investment. We have the same ambitions as Manchester City and PSG in terms of trophies, absolutely, but that will take time.
‘Do we want to win the Premier League within five to 10 years? Yes. This takeover is hugely transformative.’
Staveley has been here since Tuesday, her location kept secret as she and her team worked to complete the deal to buy the club from Ashley. One of the buzz phrases among her group in recent days has been ‘life-changing’ – for the fans and themselves.
Staveley’s eyes widened when she was informed that more than 5,000 supporters had gathered outside St James’ Park, setting off flares and spraying lager in the air in the seconds after the official announcement. At the same time, her husband Mehrdad Ghodoussi – managing director of Staveley’s PCP Capital Partners – ran into the car park of Jesmond Dene House and into the arms of a grizzly-looking supporter, not that Ghodoussi cared.
Staveley’s husband Mehrdad Ghodoussi hugged a fan in the car park of Jesmond Dene House
Staveley told Sportsmail she still remembers 2017 headlines labelling her as a ‘time-waster’
Staveley soon emerged to cheering and hugs, before declaring: ‘You are the greatest fans in the world!’ Later, sitting on the sofa of her hotel suite, she said: ‘This is the first time we’ve made a personal investment into a football club. It’s my family’s money. It was very important that we invested into a club that we could see grow and know it will blossom.
‘But we’re in the relegation zone today, so my first worry is about keeping the club safe.’
Staveley knows that January investment is needed but was also cautious about the notion of lavish spending so soon.
‘We’re going do what is needed and what you can by the Premier League rules and FFP,’ she said. ‘But we will obviously put in what’s needed to the club. We need to find a way to make revenue grow quite quickly. You can’t just pour money in. That’s part of my job, to make sure that we can grow those commercial relationships.’
Steve Bruce is set to be sacked – the consortium know a change of manager is needed to maintain momentum – but Staveley was respectful of the 60-year-old’s position. She also appreciates, however, the benefit of a winning start to their regime.
Steve Bruce is set to be axed as manager but Staveley was reticent to discuss his position
Mike Ashley (left) was scathing of Staveley back in 2017 but she has now been successful
‘We know that first game (against Tottenham) is important,’ she said. ‘And we’re going to come back with decisions (on the manager and staff). Right now, we’re just making sure that we’re going to win that Tottenham game.’
Staveley is expected to make appointments such as a sporting director. ‘I am not going to get involved in picking players,’ she said. ‘I’m not the right person.
‘We’re going to invest in the right people and we’re going to bring in a really great team. Everything will be done at a board level with a business plan that makes sense. There’s no point in boom or bust, buying one star player and it doesn’t work with the rest of the team. I hope everyone understands we need to put a plan together that works to build the club.’
Staveley also addressed the issue of Saudi human rights, including the oppression of women in the Gulf state. ‘I get the question a lot. Well, I’m a woman running a football club, which is a pretty brave thing to do for a supposedly misogynistic society.
‘I wouldn’t be in the job if that was the case. I’ve had so much support from the PIF. You can’t imagine the fight we’ve had to get to here today. I’m just honoured and proud to work with them.’
And what about the idea of this deal being a means of sports-washing for the Saudis? ‘If we were doing some sports-washing deal, we’d be buying a different club at the top the league,’ she said.
‘We’re buying a club at the bottom of the league. This is all about an investment. It’s about building this club, giving it the love and nurture it needs to challenge for the trophies we want.’
Staveley candidly addressed concerns over human rights as well as a misogynistic regime