Premier League criticised over Newcastle’s Saudi state ownership links
Amnesty International says the Premier League’s apparent failure to re-examine whether the Saudi state is in control of Newcastle demonstrates there is a “vacuum at the top of English football”.
A court document submitted in the United States last week as part of a dispute between the PGA Tour and LIV Golf raised fresh questions over the level of separation between the club’s leadership and the Saudi state.
The Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), which holds a controlling stake in the club, was described in the document as “a sovereign instrumentality of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” while PIF governor and Newcastle chairman Yasir Al Rumayyan was described as “a sitting minister in the Saudi government”.
The Premier League only approved the Saudi-led consortium’s takeover in October 2021 after receiving “legally-binding assurances” that there would be no state control over the club. A week on from the document being published, it has not issued any comment on the matter.
Peter Frankental, Amnesty UK’s economic affairs director, said: “A week on from the Public Investment Fund revelations, there’s been a worrying silence from the Premier League about the Newcastle deal.
“Nearly three years ago, we were warning that the league needed to strengthen its ownership rules to prevent state-linked overseas buyers using English football for sportswashing – yet nothing was done and now there’s an apparent vacuum at the top of English football on this crucial issue.
“During the time that Saudi Arabia has owned Newcastle, the human rights crackdown under Mohammed bin Salman has worsened – with freedom of speech now all but extinguished, grossly unfair trials and torture commonplace, and the death penalty being used extensively and with horrifying results.
“It’s surely unimaginable that the Premier League won’t re-examine the assurances made about the non-involvement of the Saudi authorities in the Newcastle deal, and the sooner this is announced the better.”
Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said in a BBC interview in November 2021 that if his organisation found evidence of state involvement in the running of the club “we can remove the consortium as owners of the club”.
Newcastle declined to comment on whether there had been any contact between the club and the Premier League on this matter.