Saudi-backed takeover of Newcastle United pits two camps
Partner of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi told ITV reporter Sangita Lal Premier League should show some principle
The controversial Premier League buyout Newcastle United backed by Saudis sets up two distinct camps against each other.
Those, like Amnesty International believes state with appalling human rights record has achieved major coup and the rest, largely fans of the club, who are celebrating the passing of current owner Mike Ashley and eagerly awaiting the investment that has been promised.
Two important hurdles were overcome to finally conclude this agreement.
First, the end of a hacking feud over Premier League TV rights owned by beIN SPORT which were barred from broadcasting in Saudi Arabia, and the League was also given assurances that the new majority owners would operate independently of the Saudi state.
Since 80% of the cash comes from the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) which is chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, some will find it difficult to swallow this notion of independence.
In a statement released Thursday, Amnesty UK’s chief executive said: “Instead of allowing those implicated in serious human rights violations to enter English football just because they have deep pockets, we have urged the Premier League to change the test of their owners and managers to address human rights issues.
âSaudi ownership of St James’ Park has always been as much about image management of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and his government as it is about football.
âUnder Mohammed Bin Salman, the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia remains dire. “
The Premier League issued a statement upon confirmation of the sale on Thursday afternoon, saying: “The Premier League, Newcastle United Football Club and St James Holdings Limited have today settled the dispute over the club’s takeover by the PIF consortium , PCP Capital Partners and RB Sports & MÃ©dias.
âAfter the completion of the Premier League owners and managers test, the club was sold to the consortium with immediate effect.
âThe legal disputes revolved around which entities would own and / or have the capacity to control the club after the takeover. All parties agreed that settlement is necessary to end fans’ long uncertainty over club ownership. .
“The Premier League has now received legally binding assurances that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will not control Newcastle United Football Club.”
The sale of Newcastle United is a second major coup for the financial woman behind the deal.
Amanda Staveley not only negotiated Ashley’s Â£ 300million exit from St James’ Park, but was also the driving force behind Sheikh Mansour’s takeover of Manchester City in 2008.
Staveley will take a 10% stake in NUFC through his company PCP Capital Partners, as well as the private equity firm run by the Reuben brothers and the remaining part will be owned by PIF.
When negotiations began, Ashley’s price for leaving was closer to Â£ 350million; the reduced amount reflects the uncertain state of football’s current finances.
Staveley and Ashley already traded Newcastle United four years ago. Then the deal was broken with Ashley describing the entire episode as a “total waste of time.”
Ashley is a controversial and unloved owner and has been trying to get rid of the club for over a decade.
During his tenure he had huge fallout with manager and club icon Kevin Keegan and saw the club relegated to the league on two occasions.
More recently, he has drawn widespread criticism for using the government’s emergency retention program to put non-playing staff on leave at St James’ Park and for keeping its Sports Direct stores open beyond the official deadline for locking out the first coronavirus.
Three months ago, when it looked like the deal had collapsed, Staveley told ITV News how the club would benefit if his consortium ultimately succeeds: “We are going to invest heavily not only in the players but also in the academy, the pitch, the infrastructure and the surrounding area.
“Every part of the club will be examined and developed and we will make sure that the decisions that we make, the fans, will be part of those decisions.”
And on the issue of human rights in Saudi Arabia, Staveley highlights the progress: “I have seen incredible changes in Saudi Arabia, I have seen incredible changes with human rights.”
Staveley will have a seat on the club’s board of directors, as will Jamie Reuben and the governor of the PIF, His Excellency Yasir Al-Rumayyan will be a non-executive chairman.
In a statement, the consortium said: âWe are extremely proud to become the new owners of Newcastle United, one of the most famous clubs in English football.
âWe thank the Newcastle fans for their extremely loyal support over the years and we are delighted to be working with them.
âFor PIF, one of the world’s most influential investors, the acquisition is in line with its strategy of focusing on key industries, including sports and entertainment, and aligns with PIF’s mission of actively investing for the long term – in this case, harnessing the potential of the club and building on the legacy of the club. “