Premier League risks becoming a ‘patsy’ by allowing Saudi takeover of Newcastle, say Amnesty International

A group headed up by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is closing in on a deal to own 80 per cent of the Magpies

Amnesty International has warned the Premier League that it risks becoming a “patsy” if it allows a Saudi takeover of Newcastle United.

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which is headed up by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is leading the way on a £300 million ($375m) bid to take the club out of current owner Mike Ashley’s hands.

The Saudi group would own 80 per cent of the club. The remaining 20% will be split between Amanda Staveley’s PCP Capital Partners (10%) and British businessmen the Reuben brothers (10%).

Though a deal appears close, plenty have objected to a regime accused of many human rights abuses being involved in the Premier League. 

Amnesty has said that Saudi Arabia imprisons and tortures critics of the government and has executed people based on unfair trials. The CIA has also concluded that Bin Salman ordered the 2018 assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul. 

For these reasons and more, Amnesty UK director Kate Allen has pleaded with Premier League chief executive Richard Masters to reconsider allowing Saudi government ownership of the Magpies.

“I believe there are serious questions to address in determining whether the owners and directors of the company seeking to acquire NUFC are meeting standards that can protect the reputation and image of the game,” Allen said in a letter to Masters.

“If the Crown Prince, by virtue of his authority over Saudi Arabia’s economic relations and via control of his country’s sovereign wealth fund, becomes the beneficial owner of NUFC, how can this be positive for the reputation and image of the Premier League?

“So long as these questions remain unaddressed, the Premier League is putting itself at risk of becoming a patsy of those who want to use the glamour and prestige of Premier League football to cover up actions that are deeply immoral, in breach of international law and at odds with the values of the Premier League and the global footballing community.”

Allen added in a separate statement that she fears the coronavirus pandemic will reduce scrutiny on the takeover bid.

“The coronavirus crisis has already thrown a spotlight on football and its need to treat players and staff fairly, and now there’s a danger that the pandemic could obscure the need for a cool, measured and genuinely ethical decision over this deal,” Allen said.