Saudi Arabia-led consortium takes over English Premier League club Newcastle United

On Thursday, the English Premier League (EPL) announced that Newcastle United has been taken over by the Public Investment Fund (PIF), which is Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund headed by the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The deal has been under scrutiny due to piracy issues of sporting rights as well as human rights abuse issues by Saudi Arabia.

In a statement on Thursday, the Premier League stated that the Premier League, Newcastle United Football Club and St. James Holdings Limited had settled their dispute on Thursday on the matter of the takeover of the club by a consortium that consisted of PIF, PCP Capital Partners and RB Sports & Media.

Al Jazeera reported that the PIF had to assure the Premier League that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia and the state would not take control of the running of the club, despite it being the major partner and financier. Other partners include the Reuben brothers of Britain and financier Amanda Staveley, who has been attempting to buy Newcastle United from the past four years.

Amnesty International said that PIF taking over the premier club was “sportswashing” of Saudi Arabia’s record of human rights. Jamal Khashoggi’s family and friends asked fans to boycott the club after the takeover. However, supporters filled the St. James’ Park Stadium with some of them even chanting “we are Saudis, we do what we want” or “we’ve got our club back,” according to a report by Associated Press.

Previous owner of Newcastle United British retail tycoon Mike Ashley had been hugely unpopular for his underinvestment and lack of ambition, despite having an over 50,000 regular home crowds attending games. He also used the club to promote his business interests rather than football, leading to the club’s decline.

Newcastle won the FA Cup in 1955, more than six decades ago. It won a league title in 1927, almost a century ago. The club and its fans are expecting huge investments from the Saudis, while Amnesty International says that it is an image build over and PR tactic by the Gulf nation.

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