Newcastle takeover: Amnesty International calls for Premier League meeting over human rights

Amnesty International has written to Premier League chief executive Richard Masters calling for an “urgent human rights meeting” following Newcastle United’s takeover.

The charity wants to discuss changing the owners’ and directors’ test, in light of the “deeply-troubling questions about sportswashing” the Newcastle takeover raises.

Newcastle’s takeover was 80 per cent financed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), whose chair is Mohammad bin Salman — the crown prince of Saudi Arabia.

Amnesty’s UK CEO Sacha Deshmukh has now written to the Premier League urging change, after the league approved the takeover having received “legally binding assurances” that the state of Saudi Arabia would not control Newcastle.

“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.

“How can it be right that the Premier League’s current Owners’ and Directors’ test has nothing whatsoever to say about human rights?”

Amnesty wrote to the Premier League last week, pressing it to examine the human rights record of potential new club owners as Newcastle’s takeover edged closer to completion.

The charity points out that the current owners’ test does not mention the phrase “human rights” and says its analysis shows there is “no bar on ownership for those complicit in acts of torture, slavery, human trafficking or even war crimes”.

There are many humanitarian concerns linked to Saudi Arabia, including the rights of women and LGBTQ+ individuals, and the idea of sportswashing was similarly raised by Hatice Cengiz in the immediate aftermath of the takeover. Cengiz, the widow of murdered Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi, again criticised the deal and urged Newcastle fans and players to take a stand.

The takeover also comes as the UK government is conducting its fan-led review of football governance, which Deshmukh advises to act on the perceived failure highlighted by the Newcastle takeover.

“The events of last week will have lent even more urgency to the Government’s ongoing review of the governance of English football,” he added.

“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 the football’s ownership rules human rights-compliant can only be for the long-term good of the game.”


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