As Newcastle United edges closer to a possible takeover by a group with Saudi Arabian backing, human rights campaigners have urged the club to reject the proposed £300 million deal, describing it as “immoral”.
PCP Capital Partners, a group headed by British financier Amanda Staveley, apparently brokered the deal on Tuesday which is being backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF). PIF, whose assets are to be believed of more than £260 billion, is led by the royal family’s Mohammed bin Salman.
The current owner of Newcastle United, Mike Ashley of the Sports Direct group, has owned the club since 2007, and has often been criticised for the handling of the Tyneside club. Despite the news of a takeover, many have expressed their dissent over the deal.
Bin Salman, who is Saudi’s Crown Prince and its Defence Minister, has overseen the attack on Yemen, creating one of the largest humanitarian crises of the century. His involvement in the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has also made him come under criticism.
In light of the recent developments with PIF emerging as the majority stakeholders, Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), a UK-based organisation working to end the international arms trade, called upon Newcastle United to reject the takeover proposal on Friday.
“If this immoral bid succeeds it will provide yet another propaganda vehicle for one of the most brutal and authoritarian regimes in the world,” said Andrew Smith, a spokesperson for CAAT, according to The Daily Mail.
“The last thing that Premier League football needs is the involvement of the Saudi dictatorship.”
“This is sports-washing plain and simple. Football clubs are still community institutions and should leave a positive footprint. Money should not trump values. The message that this deal would send is one of contempt for the many thousands of victims of Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia and Yemen,” he added.
On Sunday, Amnesty International, a global non-governmental organisation that seeks to prevent abuses of human rights, also voiced its opposition and warned Premier League that it “risks becoming a patsy” unless it analyses Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations.
“So long as these questions [concerning Saudi Arabia’s human rights record] remain unaddressed, the Premier League is putting itself at risk of becoming a patsy of those who want to use the glamour and prestige of Premier League football to cover up actions that are deeply immoral,” wrote Amnesty International UK director Kate Allen in a letter to Premier League chief executive Richard Masters.
Sky reported that the Saudis would hold 80% of the shares if the deal goes through, while Staveley would take 10% and play a key role in the running of the club. The other 10% would be held by billionaire brothers David and Simon Reuben.
Once the takeover receives the backing of the Premier League, Newcastle United will have the richest owners (assets over £260billion) in England. The Magpies, before the league was suspended indefinitely, were sitting 13th in the table with 35 points from 29 matches.
On the other hand, the assets of other clubs are — Manchester City’s Sheikh Mansour (£23.3billion), Chelsea’s Roman Abramovich (£9.6billion), Arsenal’s Stan Kroenke (£6.8billion), Manchester United’s The Glazers (£3.6billion), and Liverpool’s John Henry (£2.1billion).