PIF have 'very serious' Newcastle target even without Amanda Staveley but face £712.8m test

In some ways, it did not seem real. It was Amanda Staveley's first round of interviews as Newcastle United owner and the financier was talking about winning the Premier League and Champions League within a decade. The era of 'ticking along' was clearly over.

Although Staveley and Mehrdad Ghodoussi are now set to depart, the club's ambition to one day get to the top remains unchanged. As chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan has said, himself, the PIF's long-term aim is to be number one and these are not empty words. Just ask Eddie Howe.

"They're very serious about it," the Newcastle boss told reporters just a couple of months ago. "I've seen no indication otherwise. The issue here is in other sports you can possibly invest whatever you want. Here, you certainly can't."

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It is worth noting that Newcastle have spent more than £400m on transfers since the takeover, but this is not like golf where the PIF can truly flex their muscles and the Magpies faced the very real threat of a points deduction without some last-minute sales last month.

Newcastle, in truth, have not traded well enough in the last three years - Allan Saint-Maximin and Chris Wood were the only players to previously generate fees of note - but there are still one or two lasting scars from the Ashley era. You see just as the consortium had headroom to work with following the takeover, on account of how frugally the club had been run, they also inherited a shell of an organisation.

The club had been so neglected that the black-and-whites' commercial revenues were light years behind their rivals. Peter Silverstone took charge of a team of around 40 people when he was appointed in 2022; for context, the chief commercial officer headed up a squad of between 150 and 200 staff in the same role at Arsenal. Retail and licensing? E-commerce? Partnership services? Forget it. These commercial departments have effectively been built from scratch.

To think, when Mike Ashley bought the club, in 2007, Newcastle generated £27.6m in commercial income. In Newcastle's accounts for the year ending June 30, 2022, which included the final months of Ashley's time as owner, this figure had shockingly dropped to £26.5m.

Newcastle have since increased commercial revenues - lucrative deals have been signed with Adidas, Sela and others - but the black-and-whites' income streams are so far behind their rivals that attempting to keep pace while complying with the Premier League's rules led to an 11th-hour dash to raise funds through the sales of Elliot Anderson and Yankuba Minteh in the final days of the financial year last month.

Last season's accounts have, obviously, not yet being published, but if you want an idea of the huge gap Newcastle (£250.3m) have to bridge, at a time when sponsorship rules have been tightened, champions Manchester City brought in nearly times more revenue (£712.8m) than the Magpies in their most recently published accounts. Manchester United, meanwhile, generated more than two-and-a-half times (£648.4m) the figure Newcastle posted.

Liverpool's commercial revenues (£272m), alone, were greater than Newcastle's overall turnover. Spurs and Chelsea posted club-record revenues of £549.6m and £512.5m respectively in a season these sides finished below Howe's team in the table. That is the challenge Newcastle face.

"The reality is that we're not the number one club off the pitch yet in terms of income," Howe previously said. "We're not the number one club in a lot of areas so for us to get there takes a lot of hard work."

In truth, amidst that backdrop, the club's rate of progression on the field has been stark. Newcastle went from a side destined for the Championship to one which qualified for the Champions League in just 18 months. All with the ninth highest wage bill in the Premier League. This is a club that is still catching up.