March 3 – The English Premier League has been urged to re-examine a legally binding promise made by Newcastle United’s Saudi owners that the Middle East state would not have control of the club.
Newcastle’s takeover by a consortium led by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) was rubber-stamped in October 2021 after pledging the deal was separate to the Saudi government.
However an American court document filed by lawyers for Saudi-backed LIV Golf in a case against the PGA Tour, revealed this week, claimed PIF should be regarded as “a foreign state” and described Newcastle chairman and PIF Governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan as a “sitting minister of the government.”
The document thus appeared to contradict the legal assurances given to the Premier League.
Casting doubt on the independence of Newcastle’s Saudi owners, Peter Frankental, Amnesty’s UK economic affairs director, told the BBC: “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 currently on the table.”
“It was always stretching credulity 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 sports washing 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 sports washing is affecting numerous sports and governing bodies need to respond to it far more effectively.”
At the time of the £300 million takeover Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said the Saudi state would not control Newcastle and that, if this was proved untrue, “we can remove the consortium as owners.”
Under the new ownership, the club has moved out of the Premier League’s relegation zone this season to contend for a place in the Champions League and reached its first domestic cup final last Sunday for 24 years, losing to Manchester United in the League Cup.
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