Premier League still mulling Saudi-led bid for Newcastle


Empty seats during the English Premier League soccer match between Newcastle United and Aston Villa at St James' Park stadium in NewCastle, England, Wednesday, June 24, 2020.

Empty seats during the English Premier League soccer match between Newcastle United and Aston Villa at St James’ Park stadium in NewCastle, England, Wednesday, June 24, 2020.

AP

A Saudi Arabian consortium’s takeover of English soccer club Newcastle has yet to be approved, Premier League chief executive Richard Masters said Tuesday during questioning at a British parliamentary hearing into the country’s human rights violations and broadcasting piracy.

After three months assessing the bid, Masters gave no indication of when there would be a decision on whether to allow the Saudi sovereign wealth fund to own Newcastle.

“In a perfect world, takeovers would happen cleanly, clearly and in a timely fashion — sometimes things get complicated,” Masters said.

“Our owners and directors test is not a subjective one, it’s an objective one, and it allows us to disqualify potential owners. And I’m talking generally here, not about any specific takeover or owner, on a whole raft of different issues. And so, we think it’s robust and it allows us to make decisions that are appropriate.”

Masters has rebuffed calls from Hatice Cengiz, the fiancee of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, to discuss the takeover by the Saudi Public Investment Fund, which is overseen by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Agnes Callamard, the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, concluded that Khashoggi in 2018 was a victim of a “deliberate, premeditated execution, an extrajudicial killing for which the state of Saudi Arabia is responsible.” Amnesty told the Premier League the crown prince has been involved in a “sweeping crackdown on human rights.”

Masters was asked by legislator John Nicolson about allowing someone implicated in murder to take over a club.

“You’re asking me to talk about something I simply can’t,” Masters responded.

The Premier League has previously pursued legal action against Saudi links to the bootlegging of its match broadcasts, whose rights are owned by Qatar’s beIN Sports. The World Trade Organization ruled recently that Saudi Arabia facilitated the piracy by blocking moves to shut down the beoutQ service.

“BeoutQ is now off the air,” Masters said, “and what we want to do … is for Saudi Arabia is to respond positively to the situation and to allow sports rights holders to protect their rights.”





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