Newcastle United: Premier League must ‘review’ takeover after chairman named Saudi minister

Newcastle chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan and co-owner Amanda Staveley at the Carabao Cup final
Newcastle chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan and co-owner Amanda Staveley were at Wembley Stadium on Sunday as the Magpies lost to Manchester United in the Carabao Cup final

The Premier League “needs to review the assurances” it has given regarding possible Saudi state control of Newcastle United, says human rights group Amnesty International.

The acquisition of Newcastle by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) was approved after “legally binding assurances” were made that the Saudi government would have no control over the club.

However, a US court case described Newcastle leader Yasir Al-Rumayyan as an “acting minister of government” with “sovereign immunity”.

The statements were made by lawyers representing LIV Golf, owned by PIF, which also holds a majority stake in Newcastle.

“It has always been an overextension of credulity to imagine that the Saudi state did not direct its buyout of Newcastle with the ultimate aim of using the club as a component in its broader sports-washing effort,” said Peter Frankental, Amnesty International’s UK Economic Affairs director .

“There is an unmistakable irony in the sovereign wealth fund’s statement emerging in a dispute over another arm of Saudi Arabia’s growing sports empire, but the simple fact is that Saudi sports laundering affects numerous sports and governing bodies need to respond much more effectively.

“The Premier League will certainly need to review assurances about the Saudi authorities’ non-involvement in the Newcastle deal, not least as there is still one Qatar’s offer for Manchester United is currently on the table.”

The Premier League declined to comment.

A San Francisco court has granted the PGA Tour’s motion to include Al-Rumayyan and the PIF as defendants his lawsuit against LIV and ordered them to produce documents in the case.

However, the PIF is challenging the order, arguing that the fund and its governor, Al-Rumayyan, “are not ordinary third parties subject to basic standards on the relevance of discoveries.”

“The order is an extraordinary encroachment on the sovereignty of a foreign state that is far from justified here,” says a court document.

“They are a sovereign institution of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and an acting minister of the Saudi government, and they cannot be compelled to produce testimony and documents in a US trial unless their conduct – not that of LIV or anyone else – is really the ‘Gravamen’ ‘of the case.”

Why was the acquisition of the PIF approved?

PIF initially withdrew from its takeover bid for Newcastle in July 2020 as a result of an “unpredictably lengthy process” before the deal was revived.

The takeover was only approved in October 2021 after the Premier League received “legally binding assurances” that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would not have control of the club.

The dispute had centered on who would have the controlling influence over Newcastle and therefore be subject to the test of the league’s owners and directors.

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters told the BBC in November 2021 that if his organization found evidence of state involvement in the running of Newcastle “we can remove the consortium as owners of the club”.

The PIF declined to comment while Newcastle were contacted.

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