The long-awaited takeover of Newcastle United by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF) has finally been completed. It will see Newcastle become the richest football club in the world. While Newcastle fans are dreaming of signing the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland, however, it leaves the Premier League with big questions to answer.
The biggest is whether the owners and directors test is fit for purpose.
Newcastle United Takeover: Premier League Morals Vanish
Premier League Throws Morals out the Window
Newcastle United are now owned by the PIF who will provide 80% of the funds for the £300 million takeover and will finance Newcastle going forward.
The Premier League approved the takeover after receiving legally binding assurances that the Saudi state would not control the club, but they will be financed by the Saudi Public Investment Fund. This is where the moral dilemma lies.
The Premier League have done a number of great things in recent years. It has campaigned against racism. Its rainbow laces campaign has helped promote equality and diversity no matter your sexual orientation or gender identity. However, having another member club be financed by a country with an awful human rights record undermines this great work.
Just have a look at some of Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations. Torture is still used. There is no free speech. Women and girls are widely discriminated against. Also, same-sex relationships are deemed illegal in Saudi Arabia.
Not only that, the chairman of PIF, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is accused of the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi a critic of the Crown Prince. This is something that the Saudi Arabia government and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman deny.
The big problem is that the phrase ‘human rights’ doesn’t even appear in the Premier League’s owners and directors test despite English football supposedly adhering to FIFA’s standards. This was something that Amnesty International had raised.
This surely raises big questions as to whether the owners and directors test is actually a fit and proper way of determining new owners of football clubs.
Premier League Opened Pandora’s Box With Manchester City Takeover
The takeover of Newcastle means there are just five Premier League clubs with British owners. Newcastle’s new owners may have the best intentions for the club and its supporters. However, fans who think they have their club back are in for a rude awaking.
For the new owners, this is merely a way of rebranding Saudi Arabia and to enhance its reputation on a global stage.
They have done it by hosting the Anthony Joshua v Andy Ruiz fight. They did it by hosting golf and tennis tournaments. Later this year, they will be hosting a Formula 1 Grand Prix for the first time.
This type of sports washing serves one purpose and that is to portray a version of the country as welcoming and open to all. Instead, the opposite is the case.
The Premier League opened the pandora’s box when Manchester City was taken over by the Abu Dhabi United Group in 2008.
Manchester City have had great success. The club’s owners have revitalised the surrounding areas of the club. But they have also used the club as a vehicle to promote their own self-interests.
These include shirt sponsorship and the renaming of their stadium. Also, they used the club as a way to distract from the United Arab Emirates awful human rights record.
As Amnesty International said: “As with Formula One, elite boxing, golf or tennis, an association with top-tier football is a very attractive means of rebranding a country or person with a tarnished reputation. The Premier League needs to better understand the dynamic of sports washing and tighten its ownership rules.”
Newcastle United Fans Rejoice
Newcastle United fans are understandably excited. After years of lack of investment and lack of ambition under Mike Ashley, they are now the richest club in the world.
Their fans will be glad to see the back of Mike Ashley. They probably wouldn’t have cared who took over the club, as long as that meant Ashley was out the door.
They will be dreaming of Premier League titles and Champions League nights at St James’ Park. However, that may still be a long way from happening. The Public Investment Fund group have said they want to grow the football club gradually. They intend to invest in upgrading the training ground, stadium and youth academy.
It may be a while before the likes of Kylian Mbappe or Erling Haaland are celebrating in front of the Gallowgate End.
Of course, Newcastle fans are excited and optimistic about the future. They haven’t won a major trophy since 1955 and are desperate for success. This scale of investment gives them a genuine chance of competing for silverware and crashing the big four Champions League party. However, are they uncomfortable where the money is coming from? If not, they should be.
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