Government welcomes Newcastle United takeover, after questions on executions in Saudi Arabia

  • Tom Sheldrick reports live from Westminster

A government minister has welcomed the Saudi-led takeover of Newcastle United, having been questioned about it during a parliamentary debate about the execution of dozens of people in Saudi Arabia.

An urgent question was tabled in the House of Commons, after Saudi Arabia said it had executed 81 men on Saturday for "multiple heinous crimes", amid concerns that many do not receive a fair trial.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to visit Saudi Arabia this week to push for an increase in oil supplies, to replace those from Russia after the invasion of Ukraine.

Newcastle United's main owner is Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund. The consortium leading the takeover last October have insisted that does not mean the club is run by the Saudi state, though many question that.

In the House of Commons on Monday afternoon, Mike Amesbury, the Labour MP for Weaver Vale in Cheshire, asked: "Is the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund a right and proper and fit-for-purpose owner of Newcastle United?"

Foreign Office Minister Amanda Milling responded: "The Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund is a significant investor, having invested billions in the UK and other western markets. It operates across a range of sectors. We welcome the purchase of Newcastle United, a sign that the UK remains a great place to invest."

The Labour MP for Newcastle Central Chi Onwurah said: "in utterly condemning this atrocious, horrific massacre, I speak for many, many of my constituents and Newcastle United fans."

She continued: "Whereas football fans have no control or influence over the ownership of their beloved clubs, and especially in a Premier League awash with dirty money, the UK government has both control and influence in who it trades with, in who it engages with. Will she tell us what she is going to do with that control and influence... Is she going to make it absolutely clear that sportswashing is not an option?"

Amanda Milling replied: "With regards to Newcastle United, we've never had a role at any point in the club's prospective takeover, and this has been a commercial matter for the Premier League."

Newcastle United said they had no comment to add. On Sunday, the club's head coach Eddie Howe was asked about the executions, and said "I'm just going to stick to football."