Calls for Premier League to revisit Newcastle takeover as Chairman named 'sitting Saudi minister'

Yasir Al Rumayyan has been described as a "a sitting minister of the Saudi government" in court documents in the US. Credit: PA Images

There are renewed calls for the Premier League to examine the Saudi Arabian-backed takeover of Newcastle United and its links to the Gulf State's Royal Family.

Amnesty International is calling on executives to examine assurances it was given by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF), the country's sovereign wealth fund, following its backing of the club's change in ownership in October 2021.

It comes after new court documents filed in the US raised questions about the level of separation between the Saudi state and PIF, whose governor Yasir Al Rumayyan is Newcastle United's chairman.

A brief filed as part of a legal battle between the PGA tour and the PIF-funded LIV Golf describes the PIF as "a sovereign instrumentality of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia" and Al Rumayyan as "a sitting minister of the Saudi government".

Amnesty International has long accused Saudi Arabia of sportswashing and says this represents a breach of the "legally-binding assurances" made to the Premier League that the Saudi state would not have control of the club."

Peter Frankental, Amnesty UK's economic affairs director, said: "It was always stretching credulity to breaking point to imagine that the Saudi state wasn't directing the buyout of Newcastle with the ultimate aim of using the club as a component in its wider sportswashing efforts."

"There's an unmistakable irony in the sovereign wealth fund declaration emerging in a dispute about another arm of Saudi Arabia's growing sports empire, but the simple fact is that Saudi sportswashing is affecting numerous sports and governing bodies need to respond to it far more effectively.

"The Premier League will surely need to re-examine the assurances made about the non-involvement of the Saudi authorities in the Newcastle deal, not least as there's still a Qatari bid for Manchester United currently on the table."

"In the 18 months since the Newcastle purchase, the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia has deteriorated markedly, with scores of executions after unfair trials, courts jailing peaceful critics, and the authorities continuing to block accountability for Jamal Khashoggi's murder."

The PIF is chaired by the Saudi Prime Minister, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. Eight of the nine PIF board members listed on the fund's website are listed as being either a minister or a royal advisor. Al Rumayyan is the only exception but now the court document now also describes him as a minister.

The takeover of Newcastle United was confirmed in October 2021. Credit: PA Images

The PIF is challenging an order to produce documents and testify in the LIV Golf case.

A document seen by the PA news agency, dated February 28 states: "The order is an extraordinary infringement on the sovereignty of a foreign state that is far from justified here.

"The PIF and His Excellency Yasir Othman Al Rumayyan are not ordinary third parties subject to basic discovery relevance standards.

"They are a sovereign instrumentality of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and a sitting minister of the Saudi government, and they cannot be compelled to provide testimony and documents in a US proceeding unless their conduct - not LIV's or anyone else's - is truly the 'gravamen' of the case."

Both Newcastle United and the Premier League declined to give an official comment.

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