Amnesty International has urged the Premier League to take a closer look into Newcastle United’s ownership ties with its Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) owner and their potential links to the Saudi government. 

Since the Premier League gave the PIF clearance to buy a 80% majority stake in Newcastle in October 2021, the English football body reaffirmed that there were “legally-binding assurances” that separates PIF from the Saudi government.

However, human rights activists at Amnesty have called on the Premier League to dig deeper into these assertions following a recent court case involving the PGA Tour and the PIF-backed LIV Golf, as it revealed that the Saudi golf body has a ‘sitting minister of the Saudi government’. 

Peter Frankental, Economic Affairs Director at Amnesty UK, said: “It was always stretching credulity to breaking point to imagine that the Saudi state wasn’t directing the buyout of Newcastle with the ultimate aim of using the club as a component in its wider sportswashing efforts.”

“There’s an unmistakable irony in the sovereign wealth fund declaration emerging in a dispute about another arm of Saudi Arabia’s growing sports empire, but the simple fact is that Saudi sportswashing is affecting numerous sports and governing bodies need to respond to it far more effectively.”

PIF’s acquisition of Newcastle was heavily criticised by Amnesty and other human rights activist groups, and the recent request by Amnesty is raising fresh concerns about state-owned football clubs and businesses with ties to national governments. 

Frankental continued: “In the 18 months since the Newcastle purchase, the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia has deteriorated markedly, with scores of executions after unfair trials, courts jailing peaceful critics, and the authorities continuing to block accountability for Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.

“The Premier League will surely need to re-examine the assurances made about the non-involvement of the Saudi authorities in the Newcastle deal, not least as there’s still a Qatari bid for Manchester United currently on the table.”

A new independent football regulator was recently established to overlook the current Owners and Directors Football Assessment, which also looks to give fans more of a voice into how their football club operates. A government White Paper underlined that the newly formed regulator is tasked with ‘protecting our national game and putting fans right back at the heart of football’

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