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Understanding the intricacies of the Saudi takeover of Newcastle FC

By Staff Writer

A Saudi Arabia-led takeover of Newcastle United was completed with the Public Investment Fund buying the Premier League club in a deal worth just over £300 million. But some football fans are concerned over the involvement of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — and Saudi Arabia’s record on human rights.

Arnov Paul Choudhury, an EA World View contributor for academic research perspectives, spoke to Radio Islam International to unpack the issues for us.

The PIF is a State savings account for the Saudi Arabian government. It makes the bulk of its money from oil, which Saudi Arabia has sold worldwide. Prince Mohammed bin  Salman is the Chairman of the Saudi PIF.

Choudhury explained that the prince would not have a direct say in the relations of Newcastle United. Instead, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the Saudi Public Investment Fund governor, will be the state’s spokesperson for the club. Magpie fans came out in their thousands when the news was broken.

Choudhury says that the takeover of Newcastle is not without its controversy. The takeover brought widespread criticism of the Premier League’s willingness to greenlight a deal so closely tied to a nation accused of human rights abuses. The prince, known as MBS, has been accused of ordering the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist critical of the Saudi government.

A 2019 UN report stated that “the state of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is responsible” for Jamal Khashoggi’s death. But, the Saudi Arabian government has denied this.

The term “sports washing” was recently bandied about amid criticism of the deal. Amnesty International argued that some countries invest in sport as a distraction from their poor human rights records. The human rights organisation highlighted Saudi Arabia’s poor treatment of women and use of the death penalty as examples of poor human rights.

He explained that the PIF’s sole purpose was to make money. The purchasing of football clubs means exponential earnings for the owner. And Saudi Arabia is looking for new ways to make money in the long term. Choudhury said: “the option of building a one club dominance in the region can be a cause for major, major profits being made.”

Newcastle’s fans and residence rejoiced the sale because the Saudi’s also mentioned that they would create jobs in developing the area. The promise to invest £600 000 million to ensure that Newcastle United becomes one of the most successful clubs in England. “This will put the club on the map whilst placing the Saudi’s in the spotlight as the Premier League is the most-watched league in the world, with the most sponsorships and the most money filtering in”, said Choudhury.

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