No comment: EPL’s Masters refuses to discuss probe into Newcastle’s Saudi ownership

March 29 – Premier League boss Richard Masters (pictured) has told parliament he ‘can’t’ comment on whether the league is investigating and re-examining Saudi Arabian ownership of Newcastle United. 

The 2021 takeover of the Tyneside club by the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) was granted on the basis that the league had received “legally binding assurances that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will not control Newcastle”. This sparked fury among other Premier League clubs who have demanded clarification over who owns Newcastle, calls that have been amplified after disclosures in a court case in the United States involving the Saudi-owned LIV Golf.

PIF said in a US Court that it should be regarded as “a sovereign instrumentality of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” and PIF Governor and Newcastle chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan as “a sitting minister of the government” with “sovereign immunity”.

Masters however refused to reveal whether the Premier League is investigating the Saudi ownership of Newcastle. He told MPs: “I’m afraid I can’t really comment on it. Even to the point of saying, ‘Is the Premier League investigating it?’ I can’t really comment. Obviously, we are completely aware and you are correct about the general nature of the undertakings we received at the point of takeover but I can’t really go into it at all.”

“The only time when the Premier League comments publicly on regulatory issues is when it’s charged and at the end of the process when an independent panel decides if any rule breaches have actually taken place. The investigatory process, we don’t talk about at all.”

In July 2020, PIF initially withdrew from its takeover bid for Newcastle as a result of an “unforeseeably prolonged process”, before the deal was revived.

During a hearing of the Select Committee, Masters also rejected the accusation by MP Tracey Crouch that the Premier League has been trying to kick attempts for an independent regulator into the long grass.

Masters responded saying: “I don’t recognise that at all — we have done nothing else but engage with this process. I don’t recognise the ‘kick it into the long grass’ narrative.”

He emphasised that the Premier League would welcome an independent regulator. Last year a fan-led review recommended an independent regulator which would allow for a better owners’ test, greater fan input and tighter financial control of clubs.

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