Amnesty International has called for a meeting with the Premier League chief executive, Richard Masters, over the controversial takeover of Newcastle United.
Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty’s chief executive, has asked for the opportunity to discuss amending the Premier League’s owners’ and directors’ test to incorporate clauses that protect human rights.
The takeover of Newcastle by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, has raised questions over the possibility of sportswashing by a Saudi state whose record on human rights has previously been described by Amnesty as “atrocious”.
The crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, sits as chairman of the PIF. Its governor, Yasir al-Rumayyan, has been appointed nonexecutive chairman of Newcastle following the takeover.
The Premier League says it has “legally binding assurances” the Saudi state will not control Newcastle. Last week the Guardian reported that the 19 other clubs in the English top flight had also called for an emergency meeting to discuss the deal and the speed with which it was agreed.
Last year Amnesty commissioned David Chivers QC to undertake an exercise, rewriting the owners’ and directors’ test in a form that took into account potential contraventions of human rights. Deshmukh has offered to bring Chivers to any meeting with Masters to talk through the revised code.
“The way the Premier League waved this deal through raises a host of deeply troubling questions about sportswashing, about human rights and sport, and about the integrity of English football,” Deshmukh said. “Football is a global sport on a global stage – it urgently needs to update its ownership rules to prevent those implicated in serious human rights violations from buying into the passion and glamour of English football.
“We hope that Richard Masters will see that making football’s ownership rules human rights-compliant can only be for the long-term good of the game.”