Saudi-backed Deal for Newcastle Football Club Is Close
By Staff, Agencies
English Premier League, the top-level English football league system, is close to approving a Saudi Arabian-led consortium to take over the Newcastle United football club, the BBC reported.
The Saudi group involved in the deal proved that the Saudi state would not be in control of the club. Instead, the Public Investment Fund [PIF], which plans to cover 80% of the funds, will be separate from the state, therefore passing the owners' and directors' tests.
Despite accusations of human rights abuse by the Saudi Arabian state, the Premier League views that with the PIF deemed as a separate entity, the accusations are no longer an impediment to the takeover of the club.
The potential conclusion of UK businessman Mike Ashley's 14-year-reign - which fans describe as lacking investment and ambition - will come as a pleasant surprise for the fan base. A Newcastle United Supporters Trust survey on Tuesday reported that 93% of its members were in favor of the takeover, the BBC added.
However, there is likely to be a strong backlash from human rights groups, notably Amnesty International, who have long warned of the Saudi regime trying to "sports-wash" its reputation, according to The Guardian.
Development of the deal follows Saudi Arabia's lifting of its four-year-long ban on sports channel network beIn Sports, which owns rights to show Premier League matches in the Middle East.
If the deal goes through, the Saudi consortium will own 80% of the Newcastle United club, with the remaining 20% going to a duo of property developers and British businesswoman Amanda Staveley.