After a tumultuous 14 years under the ownership of Mike Ashley, Newcastle United could be finally set for a new era in the next 24 hours or so. This came after the consortium seeking control of the club was proven to be a separate entity from the state of Saudi Arabia, which was the consortium’s biggest backer.
An approval from the Premier League will be issued very soon, as soon as Thursday or Friday, after the wealth fund Public Investment Fund (PIF), who will fund 80% of the £300m takeover deal, was declared an organization independent from the state of Saudi Arabia, and thus pass the Premier League’s owners’ and directors’ test.
Other than the PIF, the consortium seeking to take Newcastle off Ashley’s hands include financier Amanda Staveley, who led the consortium, and billionaires David and Simon Reuben.
It was believed that the resolution came after Saudi Arabia sorted out their alleged piracy dispute with Qatari sports broadcaster beIN Sports, who currently hold broadcasting rights for the Premier League in the Middle East. It is possible that this dispute stems from the political conflict between Qatar and Saudi Arabia that has been simmering in recent times.
Other than beIN Sports, the biggest opposition to the planned takeover of Newcastle has been Hatice Cengiz, the widow of the late exiled Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as well as human rights organization Amnesty International. Cengiz, who accused the Saudi government of assassinating her husband, pleaded to the Premier League to halt any takeover done by the PIF as the wealth fund was chairmanned by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia himself, Prince Mohammad bin Salman.
Underneath Salman’s rulership, Saudi Arabia has been accused of committing various human rights abuses as well as violently silencing their critics, which includes the late Khashoggi.
Amnesty International has accused Saudi Arabia of attempting to perform “sport-washing” of their alleged abuses through the Newcastle takeover.
“Ever since this deal was first talked about we said it represented a clear attempt by the Saudi authorities to sport-wash their appalling human rights record with the glamour of top-flight football,” said Sacha Deshmukh, the chief executive of Amnesty International UK as quoted from BBC Sport, “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.”
Nonetheless, with the decision that the PIF is a separate entity from Saudi Arabia as well as the kingdom’s piracy dispute with beIN Sports has been resolved, the path is clear for the Saudi-backed consortium to assume control of Newcastle.
With the rumored takeover having been “dead in the water” for quite some time following the consortium walking out on their takeover bid in August 2020 following a disagreement on who should take control of the club, the news that the consortium’s bid is close to receiving a green light from the Premier League was met by sheer delight by the Newcastle fanbase, with a Newcastle United Supporters Trust survey showing that a whopping 93% of its members are supportive of the takeover.
The government of Saudi Arabia paved the way for the takeover after they announced that they’re ending airings of Premier League matches as well as matches of other leagues illegally on their beoutQ platform, as well as lifting a four-and-a-half-year ban of beIN Sports content within their territory. The Newcastle takeover consortium’s cause was further helped by Ashley’s St James Holding filing a claim last week that beIN Sports and a number of Premier League clubs are trying to “improperly influence” the Premier League into blocking the takeover.