The Premier League has a great deal in common with the Middle Eastern princehood. There’s the unimaginable wealth and dubious morality; the rapier ambition and wild pomp; the feverish tension and international intrigue; the cars, the mansions, the circus, the power. But the thing that truly links the two worlds is Amanda Staveley.
Staveley is the Gulf fixer extraordinaire — the gilded key stone. She, and she alone, holds aloft the intricate bridge between the desert states and the British footballing complex. Staveley was thrust back into the limelight last week as it emerged that an agreement has been reached for the £300 million purchase of Newcastle United from retail mogul Mike Ashley. The buyers? Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, in an echo of the deal Staveley brokered between Manchester City and the Abu Dhabi royal family in 2008.
Staveley is an enigmatic character — an entrepreneur and former model who became a tabloid regular thanks to her relationship with Prince Andrew. (It’s said that the Party Prince proposed to her two years into their courtship, and that she turned him down because she didn’t want to join the Royal Family — evidence, perhaps, of her strength in judgement.) Born in north Yorkshire to a landowning family (she still has the no-nonsense vowels to prove it), Staveley was told, as a teenager, that she’d have to go out and earn her own money — her father would be leaving the estate to the eldest son.
Staveley dropped out of university in her early twenties and borrowed some cash to set up a restaurant near Cambridge called Stocks. Close to the Newmarket Racecourse, it soon became a favourite with the wealthy owner-trainer-punter nexus of the emerging Gulf. After shutting up shop, Staveley found Q.ton, a high-concept conference centre in Cambridge Science Park — it was bought by communications giant EuroTelecom in 2000, but floundered in the dot com crash.
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