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Newcastle: Premier League agrees to discuss new owners and directors test that respects human rights

The Premier League agrees to discuss a new human rights-respecting owners and directors test with Amnesty International after the Saudi-led takeover of Newcastle … with rules branded as ‘woefully inadequate’

  • Amnesty International raised concerns about the Saudi-backed acquisition of Newcastle
  • The club was sold this month, but the Premier League owners’ test is under fire
  • Currently, the controls of the highest category do not make a single mention of human rights.
  • British Amnesty Executive Director Sacha Deshmukh to speak to Richards Masters
  • Deshmukh insisted that the inauguration is a ‘severe blow to human rights defenders’

The Premier League will meet with Amnesty International to discuss a revised human rights compliant owner and director test following the Saudi-backed takeover of Newcastle United.

The club was sold to a consortium made up of the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF), PCP Capital Partners and RB Sports & Media earlier this month, and Amnesty has urged the top flight to change its test to address issues of human rights.

Sacha Deshmukh, chief executive of Amnesty UK, wrote to Premier League chief executive Richard Masters, asking for talks between the two to change the rules for current owners and directors.

It has described the version now in use as’ woefully inadequate ‘, and there has been growing demand from authorities for action after the £ 305 million takeover of St James’ Park was finally ratified, following its initial collapse.

The owners test applies to all individuals identified as having a prominent role in the control of a Premier League club, but it does not mention human rights. Last weekend, Crystal Palace supporters targeted the checkpoints under fire.

Premier League Executive Director Richard Masters will meet with Amnesty International to discuss a revised human rights compliant Owners and Directors test

Premier League Executive Director Richard Masters will meet with Amnesty International to discuss a revised human rights compliant Owners and Directors test

Deshmukh has also criticized the change in ownership as “an extremely bitter blow to human rights defenders.” The Premier League gave the green light after receiving “legally binding guarantees” that the Gulf state would not run the club.

Amnesty has previously expressed concern on this point. Despite the promise that the Saudi government and Newcastle will remain separate, the chairman of PIF, the sovereign wealth fund, is Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman.

But now that Deshmukh is ready to speak with Masters in person, he has insisted that he hopes to begin “ a process that leads to a considerable tightening of the rules on the governance of football, ” and also pointed to sports washing in sport.

Newcastle was sold to a consortium consisting of the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, PCP Capital Partners and RB Sports & Media (pictured: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman)

Newcastle was sold to a consortium consisting of the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, PCP Capital Partners and RB Sports & Media (pictured: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman)

Newcastle was sold to a consortium consisting of the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, PCP Capital Partners and RB Sports & Media (pictured: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman)

The inauguration has been savage, with supporters of Crystal Palace protesting with a large banner.

The inauguration has been savage, with supporters of Crystal Palace protesting with a large banner.

The inauguration has been savage, with supporters of Crystal Palace protesting with a large banner.

He said: ‘The current rules on who owns and runs English football clubs are woefully inadequate, without any impediment to the property of accomplices in acts of torture, slavery, human trafficking or even war crimes.

“ The Saudi purchase of Newcastle United always seemed like an attempt to launder Saudi Arabia’s atrocious human rights record with the glamor and prestige of the Premier League and top-notch football.

‘Under the leadership of Mohammed bin Salman, government critics and human rights defenders have been jailed, civilian deaths from the Saudi bombings in Yemen have risen inexorably and the grotesque assassination of Jamal Khashoggi has been covered up.

“Now there is great concern about the cynical use of English football to launder human rights abuses.

Amnesty raised concerns about bin Salman's alleged role in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi

Amnesty raised concerns about bin Salman's alleged role in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi

Amnesty raised concerns about bin Salman’s alleged role in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi

‘We are eager to discuss with Richard Masters our ideas for a human rights compliant owner-manager test, which can help weed out inappropriate owners complicit in human rights violations, as well as reduce sports laundering and, in overall, improve in-game governance. ‘

The Saudi Arabian government has denied allegations of human rights abuse and says it is protecting its national security from extremists.

The Kingdom’s leader has also denied ordering Khashoggi’s death. The journalist’s fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, urged the top flight not to ratify the Newcastle acquisition, pointing to the crown prince’s involvement.

Last year Amnesty commissioned David Chivers QC to reconstruct a revised test that would be more in line with FIFA regulations. They say that the governing body is committed to “respecting all internationally recognized human rights.”

Amanda Staveley (right) and Mehrdad Ghodoussi (left) are two of Newcastle's new directors

Amanda Staveley (right) and Mehrdad Ghodoussi (left) are two of Newcastle's new directors

Amanda Staveley (right) and Mehrdad Ghodoussi (left) are two of Newcastle’s new directors

“A change in the owners and directors test to incorporate a reference to human rights would not make the Premier League out of the ordinary,” said Chivers.

“Rather, it would see the Premier League aligned with modern expectations of corporate governance and responsibility.”

The impasse was broken after a long wait when Saudi Arabia was able to resolve a piracy dispute with Qatar-based broadcaster beIN Sports.

The company owns the rights to project world-class accessories in the Middle East.

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