Amnesty International appeal t...


Amnesty International appeal to Premier League over Newcastle takeover deal

Phil Egan
Phil Egan

11:52 7 Oct 2021

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Amnesty International has urged the Premier League to consider Saudi Arabia’s human rights record again amid the imminent takeover at Newcastle United.

A Saudi-backed consortium is close to completing a 300-million pound deal for the club, which would end Mike Ashley's 14-year spell as owner but it still needs Premier League approval.

It's believed a Saudi ban on Qatari media group beIN Sport being able to broadcast in the Gulf state will be lifted after four and a half years.

The ban on one of the major Premier League rights holders beIN in Saudi Arabia was one of the main obstacles in a takeover of Newcastle going ahead.

The state has been accused of human rights abuses, which Amnesty International say must be a factor in deciding whether the takeover proceeds.

"Instead of allowing those implicated in serious human rights violations to walk into English football simply because they have deep pockets, "said Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International chief executive.

"We've urged the Premier League to change their owners' and directors' test to address human rights issues.

"The phrase 'human rights' doesn't even appear in the owners' and directors' test despite English football supposedly adhering to Fifa standards.

"We've sent the Premier League a suggested new human rights-compliant test and we reiterate our call on them to overhaul their standards on this.

"As with Formula One, elite boxing, golf or tennis, an association with top-tier football is a very attractive means of rebranding a country or person with a tarnished reputation.

"The Premier League needs to better understand the dynamic of sportswashing and tighten its ownership rules."

The statement added: "Saudi ownership of St James’ Park was always as much about image management for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his government, as it was about football.

"During the course of this protracted on-off buy-out, we’ve seen the Saudi authorities finally release jailed women’s rights activists like Loujain al-Hathloul - though only with punitive conditions attached and only after years of pressure from the international community.

"Under Mohammed bin Salman, the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia remains dire - with government critics, women’s rights campaigners, Shia activists and human defenders still being harassed and jailed, often after blatantly unfair trials.

"The closed-door trial of Jamal Khashoggi’s alleged killers was widely perceived to be a part of a wider whitewash by the authorities, and Saudi Arabia is accused of a catalogue of crimes under international humanitarian law during the long conflict in Yemen."

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