IT’S a question that has been asked from the moment the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund became the majority owners at St James’ Park. Why aren’t Newcastle United spending whatever it takes to become the new Manchester City?

The answer, as sporting director Dan Ashworth was quick to point out at a fans’ forum held last night, was contained within the penalty handed down to Everton last Friday for breaching the Premier League’s Financial Fair Play rules.

Yes, Newcastle could breach those same regulations and overspend wildly while assembling a squad capable of challenging for the Premier League title, but as Everton, who have been docked ten points as a result of their own financial issues, have discovered, breaking the rules will catch up with you in the hand.

Attention now turns to Manchester City, who are the only other club to have currently been charged by the Premier League with breaching their financial rules, and Chelsea, who are being closely scrutinised after reports emerged earlier this month alleging potential irregularities overseen by former owner Roman Abramovich.

Further sanctions could well be in the offing, something Ashworth is understandably determined to avoid given the glare of the spotlight that has already been trained on Newcastle in the wake of their Saudi takeover.

“The rules are clear and consistent for everyone in the Premier League,” said the Magpies’ sporting director. “We’re all bound by the same rules and regulations.

“What hasn’t been clear up until now is what the penalties would be. I can't speak on behalf of any other club, but the independent panel from the Premier League have found Everton guilty of breaching Financial Fair Play and given them a pretty severe penalty. They’re the first club to be fined for breaching FFP.


“For all of us, we weren’t quite sure what the punishments were going to be, but the rules have been fairly clear for a number of years now. It’s fairly simple, the more money you generate from different sources, be it commercial or transfer fees or corporate hospitality or the stadium, that gives you more money to spend on the pitch - or other areas.

“You’re allowed to lose a certain amount of money over a certain period of time. So, the more we can generate and the better the team does, the easier it is for Peter (Silverstone, Chief Commercial Officer) and his team to raise money and that gives us more money to spend on the pitch.”

Newcastle’s biggest off-field challenge, as it has been ever since Mike Ashley was removed from the boardroom, is repairing the damage caused by more than a decade of underinvestment in order to restore the club’s revenue levels to those of their rivals in the upper echelons of the Premier League.

Newcastle’s annual turnover, as contained the most recent set of accounts published at the end of March, stands at £180m. It is expected to increase significantly in next year’s accounting figures, but will continue to lag a long way behind the £712.8m annual revenue figure posted by Manchester City or £648.4m figure announced most recently by Manchester United.

The shirt sponsorship deal with Sela, a new tie-up with Saudi airline Saudia and the kit deal with Adidas that is due to begin next season will all help, but Newcastle are having to build sustainably from a largely standing start.

“We’ve been preaching the same message from the takeover,” said chief executive Darren Eales. “It's credit to the ownership the way they went about it in the early stages wasn’t just to splurge. We tried to be thoughtful and methodical, but we’re on a journey and that’s the message for everyone.

“It’s not a straight line, we are always looking - and that’s the important thing - the ownership will always spend every penny we can within the rules on the pitch. There’s never any doubt about that. That's a great thing, but it's about how we're efficient in that spend.

“And the other aspect is how can we create revenues? That is something that will take time for us to get to the £700m that Manchester City just announced in their recent accounts. We're not anywhere near that, but what I would say is we'll see over the next accounts that we're going up over a decent rate over the last two years.

“We're growing, it's about us keeping that growth going to keep up with the great job Eddie (Howe) and Dan are doing on the pitch. That's what we have to navigate. It's not sexy or exciting, but that's the way we're going to get to where we want to get to.”