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Human rights group, Amnesty International have said that the Premier League need to “re-examine the assurance” it was given regarding the takeover at Newcastle United.
When the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund (PIF) bought the club from Mike Ashley two years ago, the Premier League required assurances from the group that the Saudi government were in no way involved in the bid. If they were involved then the takeover would have been thwarted due to rules around state ownership in the Premier League.
After receiving enough evidence to suggest that the Saudi government weren’t involved, the Premier League signed off on the deal. However, further evidence has now come to light that Newcastle chairman, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, may well be a member of the government after all.
A recent US case involving Al-Rumayyan described him as a “sitting member of the government with “sovereign immunity”. Interestingly, this description didn’t come from those who oppose PIF but rather from lawyers representing LIV Golf, which is also owned by PIF.
As a result, Amnesty International’s UK economic affairs director, Peter Frankental, has urged Premier League officials to take a closer look at Newcastle’s ownership model.
“Saudi sportswashing is affecting numerous sports”
Frankental has been very forthright in his message to the Premier League. He said:
“It was always stretching credibility to breaking point to imagine that the Saudi state wasn’t directing the buyout of Newcastle with the ultimate aim of using the club as a component in its wider sportswashing efforts.
There’s an unmistakable irony in the sovereign wealth fund declaration emerging in a dispute about another arm of Saudi Arabia’s growing sports empire, but the simple fact is that Saudi sportswashing is affecting numerous sports and governing bodies need to respond to it far more effectively.
The Premier League will surely need to re-examine the assurances made about the non-involvement of the Saudi authorities in the Newcastle deal, not least as there’s still a Qatari bid for Manchester United currency on the table.”
🚨| The Premier League has been urged to re-examine assurances given by Newcastle's Saudi owners that the Middle East state would not have control of the club following the filing of a new court document in the United States. pic.twitter.com/uO5VA8y5up
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) March 2, 2023
With a new regulator on the way for English football, it is unlikely that similar types of takeover bids will be successful in the future when you consider that all the signs point towards state involvement in Newcastle’s ownership model.
So far, both the Premier League and PIF have declined to comment in relation to the statement made by Amnesty International.
PIF to jump ship?
The Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund has been struggling to stay out of the news in recent days. Just yesterday, Newcastle co-owner Amanda Staveley had to deny that PIF would cut ties with Newcastle in order to bid for Liverpool or Manchester United.
With both clubs looking for new investment, and potentially even new ownership, the investment fund has been linked with a move. Staveley, however, has dismissed the claims saying:
“I can’t speak for PIF but I really can’t see that happening. We built in the last year from 11th hoping we have a chance of the Champions League. We have put in £200m to date of new money and we have a business plan based on a five, 10, 15-year timeline.”