Eighty per cent of the club is owned by the Saudi Arabian-led Public Investment Fund (PIF), which Newcastle and the Premier League insist is independent from the Gulf state itself; Saturday was the largest mass execution carried out in the country's recent history
Monday 14 March 2022 22:19, UK
Amnesty International has called on Newcastle boss Eddie Howe and anyone involved with the club to speak up about human rights violations in Saudi Arabia, after 81 people were executed in the Gulf state at the weekend.
Eighty per cent of the club is owned by the Saudi Arabian-led Public Investment Fund (PIF), which Newcastle and the Premier League insist is independent from the Gulf state itself. However, its chairman is Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who is also Deputy Prime Minister.
The executions happened on Saturday for crimes ranging from killings to belonging to militant groups. It is the largest mass execution carried out in the country's recent history.
Following his game against Chelsea this weekend, Newcastle manager Howe was asked by the media about events in Saudia Arabia. While he said he was "well aware" of what was going on, he insisted his focus was on football, which has drawn criticism.
Howe said: "My focus is on trying to produce a team to win football matches and get enough points to stay in the league, and that's all I'll talk about.", before adding: "I'm going to talk football, that's all I'm concerned with."
Amnesty International's head of campaigns, Felix Jakens, told Sky Sports News: "Ultimately, Eddie Howe isn't the decision-maker on who should own Newcastle United. But he is the football manager.
"What we would urge him and anyone involved with the club to do is to be aware of these issues. 81 people were beheaded in Saudi Arabia over the weekend. We would like him and others to be able to speak up about that.
"He is not the person who makes overall decisions about the ownership, but he does have a voice to speak up about these issues".
In recent weeks, there has been a lot of focus on club ownership, after Chelsea's Roman Abramovich was sanctioned by the UK government for alleged links to Vladimir Putin.
As such, Amnesty International is also calling on the Premier League to speed up its review into the Owners' and Directors' Test, which requires prospective buyers to meet certain requirements. The human rights' organisation and the Premier League have held talks about how the current guidance could be strengthened going forward.
In regard to Newcastle's ownership, Jakens said: "The relationship between the PIF and the Saudi state is extremely close and it doesn't really hold up to scrutiny that there would be any kind of independence.
"Mohammed Bin Salman, who is effectively the overall ruler of Saudi Arabia, is the chair also for the PIF. It is almost certain he has the final say on any investment decisions.
"We also know that his Saudi Vision 2030, which is bankrolled by the PIF, is to invest in sport inside and outside of Saudia Arabia, so the idea that there is a firewall between the two, doesn't hold up to scrutiny".