Amnesty urges Premier League to block Saudi-backed takeover of Newcastle

Amnesty urges Premier League to block Saudi-backed takeover of Newcastle

The Premier League has been urged to consider Saudi Arabia’s “appalling” human rights record before it approves the Saudi-led consortium’s takeover of Newcastle. The call has come from Amnesty International, which also wants the Premier League to introduce a new owners’ and directors’ test which would include an emphasis on human rights.

A £300m deal is expected to be approved by the Premier League later on Thursday, but Amnesty UK chief executive, Sacha Deshmukh, said the deal represented “a clear attempt by the Saudi authorities to sportswash their appalling human rights record with the glamour of top-flight football”.

Pointing to the harassing and jailing of activists, and the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi, she added: “Instead of allowing those implicated in serious human rights violations to walk into English football simply because they have deep pockets, we’ve urged the Premier League to change their owners’ and directors’ test to address human rights issues.

“The phrase ‘human rights’ doesn’t even appear in the owners’ and directors’ test despite English football supposedly adhering to Fifa standards. We’ve sent the Premier League a suggested new human-rights-compliant test and we reiterate our call on them to overhaul their standards on this.”

The £300m takeover would involve the Saudi Public Investment Fund – the state’s sovereign wealth fund overseen by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – taking over 80% of the club.

The development came after Saudi Arabia lifted its four‑year ban on the Qatar-based beIN Sports to allow Premier League, Uefa and Fifa matches to be broadcast legally again, and promised to close pirate websites operating in the country.

Saudi Arabia is also in discussions over beIN’s Sports’ claims for damages totalling more than $1bn due to the country being behind a pirate network, BeoutQ, that illegally transmitted games for several years.

The Premier League has also accepted assurances that the Saudi state will not be involved in the day-to-day running of Newcastle – although given Bin Salman heads the PIF many will doubt those assurances can be trusted.

Saudi Arabia has also been widely condemned by other human rights organisations. They include Freedom Forward, whose executive director, Sunjeev Bery, has led high-profile advocacy efforts to boycott and isolate Bin Salman and the Saudi regime until its widespread human rights abuses are addressed.