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Saudi Arabia and Newcastle United — Is “Sportswashing” The New Frontier of Public Diplomacy?

In early October, a group lead by the investment arm of the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia purchased Newcastle United, the English Premier League soccer team.

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Funds is chaired by Saudi Arabia’s de-facto ruler, crown prince Mohammad Bin Salman. The purchase, therefore, caused a great deal of speculation that it was motivated by a desire to burnish the image of the Saudi ruler.  What is not speculation is that overnight Newcastle United became the richest soccer team in the world.

On the line with me to explain the significance of Saudi Arabia’s purchase of Newscastle United is Alex Ward, national security reporter at Politico and anchor of the National Security Daily newsletter.

We kick off discussing the impact of this purchase for the team itself.  As Alex Ward explains, success on the soccer field is very much central to Saudi Arabia’s broader PR goals.


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