Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka)

Amnesty voices human rights concerns as Saudi takeover of Newcastle looms


Amnesty Internatio­nal called on the Premier League on Thursday to focus on human rights issues and “sportswash­ing” as Newcastle United’s proposed sale to a consortium led by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) inched closer.

The PIF - chaired by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman - wants to buy Newcastle for a reported 305 million pounds ($415 million), with media reports indicating the deal could be announced later on Thursday.

“Ever since this deal was first talked about we said it represente­d a clear attempt by the Saudi authoritie­s to sportswash their appalling human rights record with the glamour of top-flight football,” said Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty Internatio­nal’s UK chief executive.

Saudi Arabia’s $430 billion sovereign wealth fund PIF is at the centre of the kingdom’s efforts to diversify its economy beyond oil.

The original Newcastle deal collapsed in July 2020 amid scrutiny from the Premier League, which came under pressure to stop the sale due to concerns over alleged broadcast piracy in Saudi Arabia.

The piracy dispute involved Qatari-owned bein Sports, the Premier League’s broadcast rights holder across the Middle East, which had been barred from operating in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia lifted that ban on Wednesday, clearing a major hurdle to the Newcastle deal. But concerns about the kingdom’s human rights record remain.

“Instead of allowing those implicated in serious human rights violations to walk into English football simply because they have deep pockets, we’ve urged the Premier League to change their owners’ and directors’ test to address human rights issues,” Amnesty’s Deshmukh said.

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