The proposed Saudi-backed takeover of Newcastle United is in major doubt after a group of MP’s – from both sides of parliament – expressed ‘serious concerns’ over the nation’s human rights record.
Mike Ashley’s controversial ownership of Newcastle looked set to come to an end after the retail entrepreneur agreed the sale of the club, a consortium led by Amanda Staveley and backed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund having agreed to purchase the Magpies for a figure of around £300m.
The deal, however, has received notable opposition amid concerns over Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, whilst there has also been concern expressed over the illegal streaming of major sporting events by the nation, including England’s top tier and Spain’s La Liga.
No ruling has yet been made by the Premier League who are conducting their owners’ and directors’ test, which has been ongoing for almost three months, though the latest stance from MP’s raises further question marks over the morality of approving the takeover.
According to the Telegraph, Premier League chief executive, Richard Masters, has received a letter from eight MP’s representing both sides of the House insisting the league “should do everything in its power to bring individuals carrying out human rights abuses to account”.
The concerns relate to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the chairman of the Saudi Public Investment Fund that will take an 80% stake in Newcastle should the takeover be approved. The eight MP’s say the Premier League “cannot sign off on the sale of Newcastle United” unless Saudi Arabia “reform their criminal justice system and release all political detainees.”
Bin Salman has been implicated in the state-ordered murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the Premier League continue to be inundated with calls to block the takeover amid accusations of ‘sport washing’ by the nation, Saudi Arabia accused of investing heavily in major sports in a strategic bid to repair their damaged reputation with the western world.