Darren Eales talks Saudi deals, FFP and NUFC’s “champagne problem” in must-read interview

An array of fascinating quotes have emerged from Darren Eales over the past 24 hours, with the club’s new chief executive speaking to the press about all things NUFC.

With commercial revenue needing to increase significantly to overcome some of the Financial Fair Play issues currently in our way, he’s confirmed that we are “absolutely” considering PIF-related sponsorship deals.

The 50-year-old also believes the weekly sell-outs and constant demand for tickets on Tyneside is a “champagne problem”, revealing that our owners are keen to expand St James’ Park where possible – and eager to speak with supporters over naming rights, insisting that any lucrative deal in this department would only go through with fans’ blessing.

Here’s the first of many brilliant quotes to emerge from the former Atlanta United chief, starting with his response when asked if Saudi Arabian sponsors are being considered to help boost our spending power:

“Absolutely. It would make sense in terms of some of the doors that could be opened by PIF. They invest in a number of countries globally.

“I also think when you look at a country like Saudi Arabia with a young population – 36million and growing – football is the No1 sport and there is some natural affinity there in terms of the commercial value of having an association with Newcastle.”

“The days are gone of it just being advertising and a name on the shirt, it’s about what their goals are and about what they’re trying to achieve and from that we’ve got to have fair market value, that’s the reality.

Companies are going to want to have a demonstrable return. We’ve got the potential for something that’s really great.”

Eales then talked about the club’s big ambitions, but admitted that FFP restrictions have made this VERY different to Man City’s post-takeover project, with our owners currently exploring exciting yet sustainable routes to increase revenue:

“Our vision is a stable, top-six club competing for trophies consistently. We have to find our way to get there through FFP and its challenges. We want to be quick. The ownership is keen to get there, but it has to be sustainable.

“If we want to get there as quickly as we’d like to, we have to get every single transfer right and every decision right. That is the tricky thing compared to a previous time (pre FFP) where you could sign a number of players and, if a couple didn’t work out, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. We can’t afford that.

“The reality is we aren’t like Manchester City when they had the takeover. We haven’t got a blank sheet of paper where you can just spend what you want. There are regulations in place, so we have to get from A to B in a smart way.

“If the commercial team can bring in those extra deals – and I joke and laugh about this with Eddie (Howe) – we might have to go to Australia this year, but that means you can get the back-up left back you want or the central midfielder.

“The Premier League is the No1 league in the world in all sports. It’s just incredible, its reach. That is a great advantage when you’re talking to brands. When you layer on top of that the exciting journey we’re on with Newcastle – the history, heritage, passion of fanbase, it really does give us some great opportunities.”

Darren Eales on potentially selling the naming rights to St James’ Park:

“As we think about anything to do with the stadium, we’ll talk to the supporters because, ultimately, it would be crazy to try and do something if all the supporters are against it. Bad business. It doesn’t matter what revenue you’re getting from that, it just doesn’t work.

“As we think about our opportunities to work with partners, we have to obviously do that through the lens of the supporters by engaging and communicating with them…”

“For us, it’s about talking with our supporters and being open by saying: ‘look, we all want to get to this place and to get to this place we need to bring in commercial revenues.

“We want Newcastle United to be competing for trophies and be in the top six consistently and be up there in Europe. If we can find a path that gets us there the quickest way possible then we’re going to bring everyone on the journey.”

Darren Eales on the club’s ambitions to expand the capacity of St James’ Park:

“We’re in a great position, it’s an unbelievable stadium. That is part of the magic of Newcastle United. We’re in a great place, we’ve got 50,000 and we’re packed.

“For us, this is the place we want to be. I think the question is, ‘How do we try and make that work?’. Hopefully it’s going to be a conundrum that is going to get harder and harder because we want to be growing the club, we want to be growing the fanbase.

“We’re always going to have to be looking through that supporter lense, because there’s different aspects. There’s the supporter that is a season-ticket holder and comes every week, there’ll be the supporters at the moment who can’t get a ticket because of the level of excitement but still want to feel that engagement. There’ll be the supporter that’s international who loves the club and once every five years wants to come over.

“There will be a level where we have to start thinking about those supporters in different buckets so to speak as to how we can give them that experience of being a fan of Newcastle, albeit at different levels. For us, this is an amazing location, an amazing stadium, but it is something we’re going to have to look at.

“We have to look at: ‘Can we expand it in anyway? What can we do?

“It’s ‘champagne problems’, though, that’s the beauty of it. It’s something that we’re sitting here now talking about how can we think about ways to increase the number of people that come to watch games.

“We’ve done it with a couple of things, like with the women’s team (in May), which was just incredible. We’ve got opportunities to not just think of it through the lense of first team only at the weekend, but how else can we broaden that out.

“To go back, it’s a champagne problem to have, from having given away season tickets, as has happened in the past.”

About Olly Hawkins

As a Junior Magpie since birth and season ticket holder, I eat, sleep and breathe all things NUFC! Here at the blog, I aim to bring you news, views, match reports and transfer exclusives as and when I get them.

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