Saudi-led consortium will invest in all areas of Newcastle United FC: Staveley

Saudi-led consortium will invest in all areas of Newcastle United FC: Staveley
Amanda Staveley, CEO of PCP Capital Partners, said the Saudi-led consortium will invest in the grassroots of the club. (Reuters)
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Updated 08 October 2021

Saudi-led consortium will invest in all areas of Newcastle United FC: Staveley

Saudi-led consortium will invest in all areas of Newcastle United FC: Staveley
  • Saudi Public Investment Fund, the British financier’s senior partner in the $408.6 million deal, now owns 80 percent of Newcastle
  • ‘We are incredibly keen to invest in the grassroots of this club,’ Staveley says in the first interview following the 18-month takeover

DUBAI: Amanda Staveley, the British financier who is a member of the Saudi-led consortium that has taken control of Newcastle United Football Club, told Arab News of plans to invest “in all areas” of the club after the 18-month takeover concluded.

“I know that managers and new players and all those exciting things are so important and are at the top of everybody’s agenda at the moment,” Staveley said in her first media interview after the deal was announced.

“Today is not the day to talk about new managers and new players, but what I would say is that we are incredibly keen to invest in the grassroots of this club. It is at the heart of the local community, and we will work with the fans and the community to find out what is best for them and for Newcastle United.”

Staveley, in her role as CEO of PCP Capital Partners, which now owns 10 percent of Newcastle, also spoke of the Saudi Public Investment Fund, her senior partner in the takeover with an 80 percent holding.

“PIF is an autonomous, commercially driven investment fund and I think that it is a great partnership between a great investor and a great club,” she said. “We will finally be able to invest in the club, in its infrastructure and players.”

She was speaking after a whirlwind couple of days during which the logjam surrounding the consortium bid for Newcastle was suddenly brushed aside after resistance from the Premier League, the English football authority, evaporated.

“The logjam was over control, and those issues have been resolved. We would like to thank the Premier League for all of its hard work over the last few months getting us here today, and that is essentially what broke the logjam.”

Staveley first approached Newcastle owner Mike Ashley with a proposal to acquire the club in 2017, but various approaches were resisted until the PIF got involved in late 2019.

“It has taken us four years to get here and we need to just go in and do a full review, both on the football side and the commercial side, and we will come back and make those investment decisions over the near term,” she said.

In addition to around GBP300m ($408.6 million) to purchase Ashley’s shares, the Saudi-led consortium is also committed to spending $340.5 million on the football club and other related facilities in the northeast of England.

“Most important for me is the academy, and to get investment to all areas of the club, from all sides,” Staveley said.


Sebastian Vettel invited Saudi women to karting event to learn about their lives

Sebastian Vettel invited Saudi women to karting event to learn about their lives
Updated 04 December 2021

Sebastian Vettel invited Saudi women to karting event to learn about their lives

Sebastian Vettel invited Saudi women to karting event to learn about their lives
  • The German Formula 1 driver said wanted to hear their first-hand accounts of recent changes in the country what life is like for them in the Kingdom

JEDDAH: In an effort to learn more about life in Saudi Arabia and recent changes in the country, and as an activist for equality, Formula 1 driver Sebastian Vettel said that he organized a special karting event this week for women in Saudi Arabia.

In comments shared on social media, the German driver, who races for Aston Martin, said he hired a karting track in Jeddah on Thursday and invited some Saudi women to race so that he could hear their first-hand accounts of what life is like for them in the Kingdom.

Vettel said: “It’s true that some things are changing here. There are a lot of questions that have been asked and I have asked myself. So I was thinking of what I can do. I really tried to think of the positive side.

“And so I set up my own karting event today, under the hashtag Race for Women, and we had a group of seven or eight girls and women on the track.

“I was trying to pass on some of my experiences in life and, obviously, on the track; to do something together to grow their confidence. Some of them had a (driving) license, others they did not. Some of them were huge Formula 1 enthusiasts, others had nothing to do with Formula 1 or racing before today.

“It was a good mix of women from different backgrounds and a great event. Everybody was extremely happy,” he continued. “And I was, I have to say, very inspired by their stories and their backgrounds, their positivity about the change in the country.

“It was important to get to know some of these women. And I think it was a very, very memorable and inspiring day and a great way to kick-off the weekend by focusing on the positive.”

Vettel will compete in the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit on Sunday, Dec. 5.


Hamilton seals practice double, LeClerc crashes out on day one of historic Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

All eyes will be on Jeddah on Sunday for the race, but for a fully focused Hamilton and Verstappen, Friday was all about finding an early edge. (AN/AFP)
All eyes will be on Jeddah on Sunday for the race, but for a fully focused Hamilton and Verstappen, Friday was all about finding an early edge. (AN/AFP)
Updated 03 December 2021

Hamilton seals practice double, LeClerc crashes out on day one of historic Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

All eyes will be on Jeddah on Sunday for the race, but for a fully focused Hamilton and Verstappen, Friday was all about finding an early edge. (AN/AFP)
  • Verstappen leads Hamilton by eight points — with nine wins to seven — and is looking for points in Jeddah and Abu Dhabi to seal a maiden world title

JEDDAH: History was made on Friday as Formula One drivers took to the streets of Jeddah to get to grips with the circuit during the opening practice sessions ahead of the inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix on Sunday.

Months of hard work and planning came to fruition as Lewis Hamilton pipped his title rival Max Verstappen by five hundredths of a second in the first session, and stretched the margin further ahead of the pack in the second evening session. 

The two world championship title contenders were clear of their rivals and well on top during the first two sessions, to the delight of the crowds in the grandstands.

All eyes will be on Jeddah on Sunday for the race, but for a fully focused Hamilton and Verstappen, Friday was all about finding an early edge in one of the tightest F1 championship battles for years.

Teams wasted no time getting drivers out on track to collect data on the championships’ newest circuit, and it was a good first run out for the drivers, with Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas claiming third in the first session — while the honor of first F1 driver round the record-breaking Jeddah Corniche went to Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz Jr.

Grip was expected to be at a premium given the new asphalt, but drivers reported it was better than expected. 

“Grip seems pretty high in general,” Esteban Ocon said over team radio. “I think it’s a big surprise, everywhere, traction through the mid-corner.”

First impressions of the track appeared positive from the rest of the field with Bottas declaring the circuit “cool,” and Mercedes’ sporting director, Ron Meadows, complimenting Race Director Michael Masi at how well circuit personnel had prepared the track surface overnight.

Hamilton continued his on-track dominance over his rivals as he led the second session by six-hundredths of a second over Bottas, with Verstappen nearly two-tenths back in fourth.

The session was a calamitous one for Ferrari driver Charles LeClerc, who crashed heavily with five minutes remaining, his car suffering considerable damage.

The Monaguesque lost control at turn 22, already pinpointed by teams and drivers as one of the hardest corners on the circuit.

With two sessions under their belt, one at sunset and another under the lights in the evening, the drivers will be looking to push their times down even further when the final practice and qualifying sessions get underway on Saturday.

Verstappen leads Hamilton by eight points — with nine wins to seven — and is looking for points in Jeddah and Abu Dhabi to seal a maiden world title.


‘Valued’ Joelinton reaping the benefits of Eddie Howe’s faith

‘Valued’ Joelinton reaping the benefits of Eddie Howe’s faith
Updated 03 December 2021

‘Valued’ Joelinton reaping the benefits of Eddie Howe’s faith

‘Valued’ Joelinton reaping the benefits of Eddie Howe’s faith
  • The Brazilian forward has been one of the success stories since the arrival of the new manager
  • Matt Ritchie and Jamaal Lascelles return to the fold for the game against Burnley at St James’ Park on Saturday

NEWCASTLE: Eddie Howe has revealed how making £40 million Newcastle United flop Joelinton feel “valued” is getting the best out of the Brazilian.

The forward has been outstanding since the arrival of Howe, putting in a man-of-the-match, all-action display on the right-hand side in the 1-1 home draw with Norwich City on Tuesday, in a game that saw United down to 10 men in the ninth minute.

Joelinton is a figure who has starkly divided opinion on Tyneside since his 2019 arrival from Hoffenheim for a club record fee.

And while his first couple of years with the Magpies may have seen Joelinton labelled a frontline failure, Howe believes showing the player a bit of love is making a huge difference to this “outstanding” talent.

“Joe has been fantastic for me. We really like him,” said head coach Howe, speaking ahead of Newcastle’s game against Burnley at St James’ Park on Saturday. “He has a good mix of physicality and technical ability. His work rate has been a real feature of his play, he has covered every blade of grass for the team — a real selfless mindset.

“We are really pleased with him, but we think there is more to come,” Howe added. “We have made him feel valued. There’s just eagerness to prove himself. We think he is going to be a huge player for us.”

The South American striker, who netted his first goal of the season in Howe’s debut match in charge against Brentford, is expected to retain his place in the side against Sean Dyche’s men. Howe argues Joelinton could play any number of positions, such has been the versatility shown since his arrival.

Howe said: “Against Norwich he started as a No.10, then moved to a No.8, into midfield. In terms of his best position, he can play in a number of areas. He has already played three or four positions for me, and played them well.

“He has work ethic, a high technical level, physicality, the ability to score, and you have an outstanding individual.”

United have gone 15 games in all competitions without a win this season, 14 of those have come in the Premier League.

And it’s not lost on Howe that no team has ever stayed in the top flight having not won in their opening 14 games.

“We are so desperate for those three points,” he said. “There were so many positives to take from Tuesday, although it wasn’t the result we wanted. The manner of the performance in the circumstances was really, really encouraging.

“So, if we can go into (Saturday’s) game with the same fundamentals, the same fight and spirit, I back the players to get the win sooner rather than later. A win would transform everything,” said Howe. “It would transform the feeling of the squad, the fans, the confidence.”

Howe also revealed that, despite a bruising encounter against Norwich, he has no new injury concerns ahead of the Clarets clash. And while Ciaran Clark sits it out following his straight red card in midweek, Matt Ritchie and Jamaal Lascelles return to the fold.

“We have a few bumps and bruises, but hopefully nothing too serious,” said Howe. “The squad has come through unscathed and of course we have the two boys returning from suspension.”

One player who remains on the sidelines, however, is defensive stalwart Paul Dummett.

The 30-year-old is yet to kick a competitive ball this campaign, and Howe said Dummett is still a long way from doing so.

“He is back running on the grass with the physios but still has quite a bit to go through to declare himself fit to play,” he said.


Lewis Hamilton gunning for glory at first ever Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton gunning for glory at first ever Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
Updated 03 December 2021

Lewis Hamilton gunning for glory at first ever Saudi Arabian Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton gunning for glory at first ever Saudi Arabian Grand Prix
  • Reigning champion heads into F1 race 8 points behind Max Verstappen, tells Arab News of balancing pressures of racing with interests off track

JEDDAH: The first ever Saudi Arabian Grand Prix is almost here, and the greatest Formula 1 driver of all time could not be more relaxed, considering what is at stake.

A potential record-breaking eighth championship is back within tantalizing reach. And as the eyes of the world turn to the newly completed Jeddah Corniche Circuit, F1 has never been more popular.

And some of its newest fans have come from a most unexpected source. “I think it’s changed the game,” said Lewis Hamilton.

High praise indeed. Not for a new car, or some revolutionary technical innovation, though. Hamilton was referencing the Netflix show “Formula 1: Drive to Survive,” and how it had brought the sport to a whole new global audience.

“I don’t think anybody knew what it was going to do for the sport exactly. Definitely thought it would be positive, but it’s changed the sport for good I think,” the reigning world champion added.

“I think it’s been the best thing because our sport is often quite difficult for people to understand. If you turn the TV on, you have no clue what’s going on. It’s very intricate, very complex, and there’s so many moving parts.”

The world’s most exclusive sport suddenly seems that little bit more welcoming to outsiders these days.

The 36-year-old Mercedes driver said: “Most people play football at school, play tennis, or try out these other sports. Most people don’t get the chance to race cars, so it’s been great for that show to be able to showcase that there are actual personalities within sport and the excitement in depth rather than just what you see on TV.

“And now there’s this whirlwind of new fan following, and yes the close championship makes it even more exciting.”

Not that Hamilton’s profile needed boosting.

Lewis Hamilton has helped design IWC’s Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Edition ‘Lewis Hamilton’. (IWC Schaffhausen)

Seven-time world champion, possessor of most pole positions (102) and race wins (102), and now gunning for a record eighth driver championship with Mercedes, Hamilton is coming off a sensational win at the first ever Qatar Grand Prix which has cut Max Verstappen’s lead at the top of the standings to eight points.

“The track was awesome. When we started driving it, just with the wind direction and the grip level, the speed of all the corners, they were all medium- and high-speed corners, I was sure the racing was not going to be great there. But it actually was, surprisingly.

“Qualifying lap, single lap, felt incredible and we had good preparation,” Hamilton added.

Having won the previous weekend in Brazil, Hamilton and Mercedes initially struggled in Doha.

“The Friday was a difficult day for me, I was nowhere, and I just kept my head down and studied hard and was fortunate, I felt, to turn it around and have a great Saturday and Sunday.

“I definitely didn’t know that at this point I’d be this close (to Verstappen in the standings) and have the performance that we finally were able to unlock with the car. I’m super grateful for it,” he said.

Next up for the rivals is this weekend’s inaugural Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, and yet another new track in Jeddah Corniche Circuit.

“I think all the drivers have driven the simulator; it is incredibly quick. It is a bit reminiscent of Montreal in terms of the long straight track that they have there, but they’re all curved at this track, and also there’s not a lot of run-off area so it really is quite a street circuit, and right in the city.

“It looks pretty epic to be honest, but we won’t fully know until we feel the rollercoaster ride of the real G-Force and speed, once we get there,” Hamilton added.

The reigning Formula 1 world champion says his interest off the track have helped him keep perspective in his racing career. (IWC Schaffhausen)

The British driver will be hoping to take the championship to the last race in Abu Dhabi, where the Yas Marina Circuit has been reconfigured for the first time since its completion in 2009.

He said: “It’s obviously an incredible circuit with the whole build-out of the place, I think they spent the most on that circuit than any other circuit, so it’s a great spectacle, beautiful last race of the season. But the layout has always been very, very difficult to follow and overtaking is quite difficult.

“It’s quite interesting that they’ve made these changes and I really think it’s going to unlock the potential of that circuit, to be more of a racing circuit. Because it’s so hard for us to follow each other, when they make these types of small changes, it’s hard to follow those through.

“So, from the simulator driving that I’ve done it looks like it’s going to make it very, very difficult to hold, to even keep position. It looks like it could be something where you’re constantly switching and changing. They might move to one of the best racing circuits, we’ll see when we get there,” he added.

Of Hamilton’s seven titles, six have been won with Mercedes in the last seven years, and such was his dominance at times, often it seemed that he was racing against himself, and history.

The closeness of this season’s battle with Verstappen and Red Bull is something Hamilton is cherishing.

“I really am because each year you’re faced with different scenarios. I wouldn’t say that it’s ever been a choice for me. I’ve never had it easy, in my younger days starting with an old go-kart, having to always race from the back.

“And particularly in karting, there was always wheel-to-wheel racing, super close. It was always down to that last lap, you had to be very, very tactical to make sure you came out first. I miss that in racing, and as you get through your cars you get less and less of that, and it’s more about positioning and holding the position.”

Red Bull have certainly raised the stakes this season, but Hamilton and Mercedes have risen to the challenge in recent weeks; the gap to Verstappen is down to only eight points in the drivers’ championship, while the team now leads Red Bull by five points.

Hamilton said: “Then of course we have all these disparities between cars each year, one team does well, and the other team doesn’t. We’ve done well for quite a few years, it’s amazing to now have this close battle again because it’s reminiscent of my karting days in terms of how close it is.

“But it also meant that we all have to elevate and perfect our craft even more. That’s what sport is about, right? That’s why it’s been super exciting. It’s been challenging for my engineers, for the mechanics, how do they dig deep and squeeze more out of their potential. It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions, but something I’ve really enjoyed.”

Should Hamilton win the title in Abu Dhabi, it will be a very popular victory among the natives. The organizers of the race at Yas Marina Circuit still speak with pride at how Hamilton — who races in No. 44 — took part in the UAE’s 44th National Day celebrations in 2015.

Having spent a significant part of his life racing around the world, Hamilton has seen first-hand how F1 has grown in the Middle East.

“Each time we go out to Bahrain, the crowds seem to get bigger and bigger. Abu Dhabi gets bigger and bigger each time we go and of course we have more and more presence now particularly with Qatar and Saudi,” he added.

Crucially, more young people are taking up motorsports in this part of the world, especially karting.

“I just spoke to someone from Saudi, I don’t know a lot of people in Saudi, but they are talking to me about how there are a lot of girls, and boys, where their first choice is not football, it’s racing,” Hamilton said.

“It’s quite cool to see there is a new generation out in the Middle East that are car crazy and want to be racing. So, who knows, maybe in the future we’re going to see a Formula 1 driver from somewhere in the Middle East, I think that could be quite cool. Would be even better if that was female.”

Hamilton, famously, has developed many interests, and supported many causes, outside racing.

“Being an athlete, being a sportsman, most often that’s all you do and for me it’s been important to find other outlets, other areas, because if you focus on one thing it doesn’t always lead to happiness.

“You’ve got to be able to fill and explore your other potential, other avenues that you might be good at. It’s always great to be able to turn your mind off from racing, and focus on something else, something that you can be creative with,” he added.

Unlike most other drivers, or athletes, Hamilton has had ventures into music and fashion. He has also built a close relationship with Swiss watch manufacturer IWC Schaffhausen — for whom he is an ambassador — over the last few years, helping design his very own timepiece, Big Pilot’s Watch Perpetual Calendar Edition Lewis Hamilton.

“So, I really enjoyed the whole process, from sitting in the car at Hockenheim with Christopher (Grainger-Herr, chief executive officer of IWC Schaffhausen), driving to the airport and talking about a potential collaboration, and talking about the intricacies of a watch, and saying I want my own watch one day, to now having my own timepiece.

“It was really challenging for me, sitting there working with them because I have a lot of appreciation for the brand’s work and expertise, but I also wanted to add my own touch. I had questions like, what can we change on the dial? The tourbillon, I want to get the tourbillon in one of my pieces because it’s one of my favorite movements, if not my favorite movement,” he said.

In recent years, activism has played a big part in Hamilton’s life away from F1, and he has become an outspoken advocate for social equality, diversity in sport, and environmental sustainability, his own X44 team taking part in the first ever electric SUV rally series, Extreme E, this year.

Hamilton noted that it was vital for him to work with people who shared his values.

“So, I’ve been on calls with my partners at IWC Schaffhausen talking about things like, what are you doing during this time about diversity? How diverse is your company, what are your goals, how are you going to be more inclusive moving forward? And they’re fully on board with that.

“That for me is amazing to see, that people are conscious of sustainability, brands are conscious of the impact that we’re having on the planet. I only really like to engage with people that are like-minded in that sense, rather than just business-minded,” he added.

Far from being distractions, his interests away from racing have helped him keep an almost zen-like sense of perspective in his career, as his continued brilliance on the track has shown.

He said: “Tapping into different things helps take the pressure off this crazy, intense world that I have over here. Because if I stop and think about that and only think about the racing, I have 2,000 people working flat out, depending on me at the end to pull it through.

“Partners, and my own expectations can be super overwhelming, so these other things help me dilute that pressure and feed that energy into something positive.”

Still, when he lands in Jeddah for the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix this weekend, expect one thing, and one thing only, to be on Lewis Hamilton’s mind.


Jailed former paralympic athlete Pistorius moved closer to victim’s family

Jailed former paralympic athlete Pistorius moved closer to victim’s family
Updated 02 December 2021

Jailed former paralympic athlete Pistorius moved closer to victim’s family

Jailed former paralympic athlete Pistorius moved closer to victim’s family
  • Pistorius went from public hero to convicted murderer in a trial that drew worldwide interest
  • He is set to speak to Steenkamp's parents in a process known as victim-offender dialogue

CAPE TOWN: Former South Africa paralympic superstar, Oscar Pistorius, jailed in 2016 for killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, has been moved closer to her family ahead of reconciliation talks that could help pave the way for his early release from prison.
Pistorius, known as “Blade Runner” for his carbon-fiber prosthetic legs, went from public hero to convicted murderer in a trial that drew worldwide interest. He becomes eligible for parole after serving half of his 13-year sentence.
Pistorius is set to speak to Steenkamp’s parents, June and Barry Steenkamp, in a process known as victim-offender dialogue — an integral part of South Africa’s restorative justice program in its prison system that brings parties affected by a particular crime together in a bid to achieve closure.
“They are participating in the process because they have committed themselves to being part of the victim-offender dialogue. They feel they have to do this for Reeva,” Tania Koen, lawyer for the Steenkamps, said of the family.
Pistorius’ lawyer did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Gold medalist Pistorius, once the darling of the Paralympic movement for pushing for greater recognition and acceptance of disabled athletes, shot dead Steenkamp, a model and law student, in his bathroom in 2013.
Pistorius said he had believed she was an intruder but was jailed in 2016, initially for a six-year term. After an appeal by prosecutors who said this was too lenient the term was increased to 13 years.
He has now been moved from a prison near Johannesburg to one on South Africa’s east coast, near where Steenkamp’s parents live.
Neither their lawyer Koen nor Singabakho Nxumalo, a spokesman for the department of correctional services, could provide Reuters with a timeline for the discussions.
“It is very sensitive process, highly emotional... and we do not force people to participate in it,” Nxumalo said.
“But we are saying at least it does lay a foundation where people can, if possible, forgive each other, find one another and then try to move forward in harmony,” he said.