The Premier League “needs to re-examine the assurances” given to it about Saudi Arabia’s involvement at Newcastle United, according to Amnesty International. The country’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) were given the green light to buy a controlling stake in the club in 2021 after offering “legally binding assurances” that the Saudi regime would not have any influence over the Magpies.
Those have been called into question due to a San Francisco court case involving the LIV Golf tour, which is also owned by PIF. The PGA Tour had requested that both PIF and Yasir Al-Rumayyan, chairman of Newcastle, be included among the defendants in the lawsuit. Lawyers acting for LIV described the fund as “a sovereign instrumentality of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” and Al-Rumayyan as “a sitting minister of the Saudi government.” In response to this submission, Amnesty is calling on the Premier League to ask further questions of Newcastle.
Peter Frankental, Amnesty International’s UK economic affairs director, said, “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. 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.”
The Premier League have set a precedent that would allow them to take action against the Saudis. When the lengthy process concluded with Mike Ashley’s £300 million sale in October 2021, the league’s chief executive said that his organization could “remove the consortium as owners of the club” if they concluded that the kingdom’s government was running the club.
Meanwhile, Amanda Staveley, who received a 10 percent stake in Newcastle after driving through the sale, has said that she does not expect PIF to sell up in order to bid for Manchester United. Instead, she said the club were looking at options to grow the brand, including multi-club ownership as is common in the City Football Group and the Red Bull group.
“Obviously if we’re looking at everything in terms of how we grow Newcastle, how we grow our brand, how we grow our club,” she said at the Financial Times’ Business of Football summit. “An opportunity to buy players affordably well, early in the cycle, is critical to our growth. We’re very focused on our academy and young players at the moment.
“Obviously we’ve looked at multi-club. Whenever you look at multi-club. you’ve got to make sure you’ve got the right fit. It’s complicated and we’re also looking at another structure that would allow us to maybe both. Maybe something a little bit different that gives us more opportunity to work with a lot more clubs (without buying stakes in them). That’s at a quite early stage, so we’re just looking. I think anybody who is looking to buy any club is going to be looking at that multi-club model.”
Explaining why PIF had not attempted to acquire “the wonderful Tottenham, Chelsea and Liverpool” Staveley added that the calculus was rather simple, saying, “Why spend billions?”