Sheffield United were eyed by new Newcastle United backers as an investment opportunity

The new shirt sponsors of Newcastle, sporting event and hospitality company Sela, was once considered a potential investor in Sheffield United, The Star understands.
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The firm, which is owned by the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), handed the newly promoted club’s parent company a seven figure sum - believed to be in the region of £3m - before current owner Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud seized sole control of Bramall Lane’s affairs four years ago. The sum, which sources with knowledge of the discussions claimed was not expected to be paid back, was viewed by some as the first tranche of cash which would eventually result in a full takeover. However, that did not transpire, with the relationship between Prince Abdullah and then fellow co-owner Kevin McCabe later deteriorating to such an extent they ended-up becoming embroiled in a legal battle at the High Court.

Sela’s looming presence was raised during that hearing, which eventually saw Mr Justice Fancourt award United to Prince Abdullah. Crucially, with United gaining promotion from the Championship last season, they no longer exert any influence over affairs at Bramall Lane and their involvement with United predated the PIF’s takeover at St James’ Park.

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Following the apparent collapse of his talks with Dozy Mmobuosi about selling his shareholding - the Nigerian businessman’s company Tingo is now facing a series of class actions in the US - Prince Abdullah is now investigating a number of other lines of enquiry designed to identify either an outright buyer or external sources of investment. Some of these are known to focus on North America, where members of the business community already involved in sports are keen to expand their portfolios into the UK. But at least one is trained on Prince Abdullah’s homeland, where government officials at the PIF are aggressively trying to transform its own domestic league into one of the best competitions in the world by making a series of high-profile and costly signings.

If these talks result in a firm proposal being tabled, then any “persons of significant interest’ involved would be required to demonstrate they are independent of the PIF in order to comply with PL regulations. However, any business dealings with the sovereign wealth fund would not necessarily be prohibited by competition chiefs, as it is known to have put money into Clearlake Capital; the majority owners of Newcastle’s top-flight rivals Chelsea.

The Jeddah Super Dome, which is operated by Sela who once considered backing Sheffield United: AFP via Getty ImagesThe Jeddah Super Dome, which is operated by Sela who once considered backing Sheffield United: AFP via Getty Images
The Jeddah Super Dome, which is operated by Sela who once considered backing Sheffield United: AFP via Getty Images

Sela’s agreement with Newcastle is said to be worth around £25m a season, and sees them replace an online gambling firm as the headline sponsors of Eddie Howe’s side. The official statement, designed to confirm the partnership, described Sela as “a pioneering destination and experiences organisation”, noting that they also operate a number of state-of-the-art complexes in both the Saudi capital Riyadh and the port city of Jeddah where it is based. One of those, the Super Dome, was the venue for boxer Anthony Joshua’s second world heavyweight title fight with Oleksandr Usyk and is the largest building of its kind in the world.

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