Saudi-led group finalize Newcastle United purchase

A group led by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund finalized the purchase of Premier League football team Newcastle United on Thursday,...


A group led by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund finalized the purchase of Premier League football team Newcastle United on Thursday, moving quickly to overcome objections to its years-long search for a place as as owner in one of the most important sports competitions in the world.

The sale instantly transformed Newcastle, an underperforming club with a home in the north of England far from the centers of power in European football, into theoretically one of the richest teams in the world, backed by the wealth of the Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, a vehicle that controls assets worth $ 500 billion.

But it also raised new questions about the economics and morality of allowing a nation-state, and in particular one accused of serious human rights violations, in the elite club of Premier League owners.

The announcement that the Saudi-led group had gained full control of the club from its former owner, retail mogul Mike Ashley, came days after Saudi Arabia resolved the hurdle that had blocked a similar deal last year.

Since 2017, Saudi Arabia has not only blocked Qatari sports network beIN Sports – one of the Premier League’s most lucrative broadcast partners – from operating in its territory, as part of a wider dispute between both nations, but he was also accused of both hosting and operating a rogue network that hacked beIN content.

Last year, as the Saudi-led bid to take over Newcastle appeared to be gaining momentum, beIN Sports asked the Premier League to refuse to approve the takeover. Eventually, the Saudi consortium withdrew its offer before the Premier League had to make a final decision.

But as it emerged on Wednesday that Saudi Arabia had lifted its ban on beIN, the Premier League insisted that solving the hacking issue was not the deciding factor in enabling the takeover.

Instead, the league said in a statement Thursday that it could authorize the deal because it had received “legally binding assurances” that the Saudi state would not control any of its member clubs.

The league’s statement suggests that it is now apparently satisfied that the PIF – chaired by Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia – is entirely separate from the Saudi state, where Salman is deputy prime minister, minister of Defense and widely regarded as the de facto sovereign country.

Yasir al-Rumayyan, the governor of the PIF, will be the non-executive chairman of Newcastle, with Amanda Staveley, a British businesswoman, and Jamie Reuben, a billionaire real estate investor, also serving on the club’s newly formed board of directors.

All Premier League club managers undergo a background check, designed to ensure that they are the proper stewards of what are often beloved civic institutions.

A number of human rights organizations have made clear their objections to the deal, Amnesty International call to the Premier League to change the test rules of its owners and managers to ensure that those accused of human rights violations cannot take charge of football teams.

“Since this deal was first brought up, we have said that it represented a clear attempt by the Saudi authorities to wash away their appalling human rights record with the glamor of top-level football,” Sacha Deshmukh said. , general manager of the organization in Great Britain.

“Under Mohammed bin Salman, the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia remains dire – with criticism from the government, with women’s rights activists, Shiite activists and human defenders still harassed and imprisoned, often after blatantly unfair trials.

At Newcastle, however, fans tired of Ashley’s ownership and the team’s poor performance during his tenure celebrated the sale outside the club’s stadium. For months, club supporters have taken to social media to defend the sale, and some have even taken legal action against the Premier League to push the takeover forward.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Saudi-led group finalize Newcastle United purchase
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