Newcastle United takeover 'always more than a commercial transaction'  – Amnesty International worried by Boris Johnson approach on Saudi deal

Amnesty International admit they’re worried by the reported approach of Boris Johnson in the Newcastle United takeover saga.

Thursday, 15th April 2021, 4:51 pm
Updated Thursday, 15th April 2021, 4:58 pm
A general view of the sun setting behind the West stand of St James' Park, during the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Leicester City at St. James Park on January 03, 2021 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

The Magpies buyout by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, Reuben Brothers and PCP Capital Partners has been steeped in controversy since news broke of negotiations in January 2020.

And the latest furore concerns the reported communications between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in June last year.

Reports claim MBS asked for Johnson to pressure the Premier League to alter their stance on the deal, which was stalled when the governing body refused to make a definitive call on the change of ownership.

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Consortium sources have also played down the veracity of said claims.

In light of another day of headlines on the Newcastle United takeover front, Amnesty have issued a statement.

“The bid to buy Newcastle was a blatant example of Saudi sportswashing, so it’s worrying that the prime minister would accede in any way to pressure from the crown prince over the deal,” said Kate Allen, the human rights group’s UK director.

“Reports that Mohammed Bin Salman made threats about possible damage to UK-Saudi relations if the deal didn’t go ahead only illustrates that this was always more than just a commercial transaction within the football world.”

Allen went on to say: “At the time that the crown prince was putting this pressure on No 10, the world was still reeling from the fall-out over Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, Saudi human rights activists like Loujain al-Hathloul were languishing in jail, and Saudi warplanes were indiscriminately bombing Yemen.

“This whole tangled affair only underlines how there needs to be a proper overhaul of the Premier League’s owners’ and directors’ test to provide proper human rights scrutiny of who is trying to buy into the glamour and prestige of English football.”

The PIF, PCP and Reubens £300m-plus deal remains wrapped up in legal red tape with results of a club arbitration hearing against the Premier League awaited before any further action is expected.