Newcastle takeover: Amnesty International hails failure of Saudi Arabia’s ‘sportswashing’ attempt

Amnesty International has welcomed the Saudi Arabian government’s withdrawal of a bid to takeover Newcastle United, describing the move as a “blatant attempt … to sportswash its abysmal human rights record”.

A joint statement from the Saudi Public Investment Fund, PCP Capital Partners and RB Sports & Media consortium on Thursday said that the £300m proposed takeover was ”no longer commercially viable”, after being lodged for approval with the Premier League for 17 weeks without resolution.

It means Mike Ashley, Newcastle’s unpopular owner, will remain in charge of the club for the foreseeable future as his search for a buyer goes on.

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Peter Frankental, Amnesty International UK’s economics affairs programme director, said: “This deal was always a blatant attempt by the government of Saudi Arabia to try to sportswash its abysmal human rights record by buying into the passion, prestige and pride of Tyneside football.

“The fact that this sportswashing bid has failed will be seen by human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia as a sign that their suffering has not been entirely overlooked. Numerous peaceful Saudi human rights activists are currently behind bars, and of course a Saudi journalist was grotesquely murdered by agents of the Saudi state less than two years ago.

“Looking ahead, there needs to be a rule change to ensure the Premier League’s Owners’ and Directors’ test provides proper scrutiny of the human rights records of those trying to buy into English football, not least when the buyers are governments or government representatives. We’ll be watching developments at St James’ Park with interest and meanwhile we wish Newcastle United and its fans well.”

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