On Monday night, one of the weirder rumors to hit social media in recent weeks began to emerge: WWE owner Vince McMahon wants to buy English soccer club Newcastle United. Take this with a huge grain of salt, or suspend your disbelief as if you’re watching something produced by the WWE. The rumor was “exclusively” reported by a British website called Winner Sports, which isn’t exactly the BBC … or even the Sun tabloid for that matter.
The rumor’s gotten enough traction to start spreading around the web, albeit without any sourcing or back-up reporting. Mostly it’s been an excuse to post memes and other goofs revolving around the idea of McMahon — Mr. McMahon — owning an actual sports franchise that doesn’t fall under the auspices of sports entertainment or include players named He Hate Me.
If you think about it — and get past the easy WWE jokes — it’s not as outlandish as the rumor sounds.
For one, the club is currently owned by Mike Ashley, who’s no prince himself. Remember Ashley appointed Joe Kinnear as the club’s sporting director and all Kinnear did before stepping away earlier this year was infamously mispronounce most of the team’s players names wrong in a radio interview including calling Yohan Cabaye (now with PSG) “Yohan Kebab.” For years Newcastle’s legion of shirtless, horse-punching fans have clamored for Ashley to sell the team — they were ready to mutiny when Ashley fired Kevin Keegan in 2008 and again when he sold the naming rights to St. James Park — so they should be overjoyed McMahon would want to invest in a club which hasn’t won a major trophy since the 1955 FA Cup.
There also isn’t a rule that says an English soccer club owner must be a beacon of virtue in their personal lives or abide by some lame morality clause. West Ham United is owned by David Gold and David Sullivan who made their money in the pornography business. Meanwhile Cardiff City is run by Malaysian businessman Vincent Tan who actually acts as if professional soccer is a branch of scripted sports entertainment.
Although it’s easy to joke about McMahon, he is a billionaire and just might know how to run a business. The WWE had revenues of $480 million in 2012. Tuesday morning its stock traded around $23 dollars — up about $2 — likely from the potential windfall the on-demand WWE Network (which launches next Monday) could produce. While McMahon might not have Qatari oil money at his disposal, he could use some of his personal wealth to ensure the club doesn’t need to sell off the aforementioned Cabaye during the January transfer window.
Forbes valued Newcastle United at around $260 million in 2013. The bulk of the club’s value revenue comes from the $141 million in broadcast rights it receives as a member of the EPL. St. James Park is a big, 50,000+ seat stadium and the Geordie fans are loyal, filling it up upwards of 30 times a calendar year. It would be a fairly safe investment for McMahon, so long as the team avoids relegation. Figure that McMahon’s business savvy and acumen would only increase the club’s profitability from a marketing standpoint.
McMahon might not have experience in the soccer business, but he’s not a fool, either. If he appoints people who know what they’re doing and lets them do their job, McMahon would be in line with any other owner of a EPL club — or at least the few smart ones who sit back and let their staff handle things.
Let’s be honest, were McMahon to buy into the Premier League he’s not going to try to script matches or inject players with PEDs or try to devise new methods to settle ties. Nor is he going to pull a stunt and try to use wrestlers as soccer players. He’s going to be a businessman trying to tap into the money-printing machine that is the Barclay’s Premier League and its worldwide brand. At worst, he’d use the platform with the Magpies to help promote WWE in the United Kingdom which doesn’t seem too bad, does it? At best, McMahon helps wake up the sleeping giant that is Newcastle United and finds a way to add more off-field drama and intrigue into the EPL. (We can dream of him cracking Roman Abramovich over the head with a steel chair or Jim Ross narrating highlights.)
Anyways, we made it this far into a post about McMahon and WWE, keeping mostly a straight face. Let’s close with one of the highwater marks of McMahon’s career in sports entertainment:
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