Newcastle takeover: Amnesty raises concerns over Saudi-backed consortium

General view inside the stadium looking out to the city ahead of the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Leicester City at St. James Park on January 01, 2020 in Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom.
Image: PCP Capital Partners' proposed takeover of Newcastle was understood be nearing completion on Tuesday

Amnesty International has written to the Premier League to raise their concerns over the £300m purchase of Newcastle United by a consortium of buyers including Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund.

Amnesty is asking Premier League chief executive Richard Masters to fully consider the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia as part of the Premier League's owners and directors test.

In the letter to Masters, Amnesty UK's director Kate Allen says there are "serious questions for the Premier League to address" concerning the deal.

She said: "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 Newcastle deal.

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman and businesswoman Amanda Staveley
Image: Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, is part of the consortium led by businesswoman Amanda Staveley

"All businesses need to safeguard against any possible links to human rights violations, and English football is no different.

"We're absolutely not saying who should end up running Newcastle United, but unless the Premier League pauses and looks seriously at the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia it risks becoming a patsy - a willing dupe of those trying to sportswash their abysmal human rights records."

Saudi Arabia has branched out into sport in recently - the nation hosted Anthony Joshua's boxing heavyweight world title rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr, and have plans in place for an F1 Grand Prix in 2023.

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All paperwork has been lodged with the league's governing body, who are carrying out their checks on PCP Capital Partners, the Saudi-backed consortium led by businesswoman Amanda Staveley.

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Sky Sports News' Keith Downie provides the latest on the progress of Newcastle's proposed takeover and says the deal is moving towards its 'final stages'

The fact they have made a significant deposit to current owner Mike Ashley already would suggest the group are confident of having their takeover ratified by the Premier League, ending Ashley's 13-year tenure at St James' Park.

A source close to the deal said the Public Investment Fund's Yassir Al-Rumyyan is set to take over as chairman, but remain based in the Middle East.

Allen added: "This is more than just a financial transaction - it's an image-building exercise that draws on the prestige of the Premier League and the passion of Newcastle United's fanbase.

"Whether or not this deal goes ahead, we're calling on Newcastle United staff and fans to familiarise themselves with the dire human rights situation in Saudi Arabia and be prepared to speak out about it.

"At the very least, the Premier League should make a clear statement over how its owners and directors test has been applied in this case, and what assessment has been made of Saudi Arabia's human rights record under Mohammad bin Salman's leadership. How can this be positive for the reputation and image of the Premier League?"

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Former Newcastle defender Ryan Taylor thinks Newcastle will be capable of challenging for honours if the prospective new owners are willing to invest

The Premier League's owners and directors test assesses the suitability of would-be buyers on a set of established criteria.

The rules allow the league to consider whether the buyers have the means to fund the club, and examine any criminal convictions in the UK or overseas.

A Premier League spokesperson told Sky Sports News: "The Premier League will not comment on any aspect of the proposed sale of Newcastle United."

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