KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING —- The £300m Saudi Arabian takeover of Newcastle United has been approved by the Premier League though human rights issues mean the controversy will rage on.
The deal, Magpies’ fans hope, will see the club rival the spending power and trophy-winning success of Abu Dhabi-owned Manchester City and Russian-led Chelsea.
However the ‘sports-washing’ takeover was criticised by the fiancee of the Saudi-murdered Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi while Amnesty International urged the Premier League to ‘overhaul their standards’ regarding human rights.
Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker tweeted: “Football fans want their clubs to succeed, but at what price? The dilemma facing NUFC supporters.”
Manager Steve Bruce, without a league win to celebrate yet this season, is unlikely to last much longer after the long-awaited ownership departure of businessman Mike Ashley.
Completion was approved after the Premier League said it had settled legal disputes that had initially stalled the takeover process, and received “legally binding assurances” that the Saudi Arabian government will not effectively own the club.
Most significantly, opposition had been dropped by the powerful Qatar-owned beIN Media Group whose broadcasting operations and contracts in the Middle East and North Africa had been compromised by a Saudi-based pirate.
A Premier League statement read: “The Premier League, Newcastle United Football Club and St James Holdings Limited have today settled the dispute over the takeover of the club by the consortium of PIF, PCP Capital Partners and RB Sports & Media.
“Following the completion of the Premier League’s owners’ and directors’ Test, the club has been sold to the consortium with immediate effect.
“The legal disputes concerned which entities would own and/or have the ability to control the club following the takeover.
“All parties have agreed the settlement is necessary to end the long uncertainty for fans over the club’s ownership.
“The Premier League has now received legally binding assurances that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will not control Newcastle United Football Club.
“All parties are pleased to have concluded this process which gives certainty and clarity to Newcastle United Football Club and their fans.”
Newcastle also released a statement, confirming that Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) will act as the club’s non-executive chairman, while Amanda Staveley, chief executive of PCP Capital Partners, will have a seat on the board.
The statement added: “The Investment Group is comprised of long-term, patient investors who have every confidence in the future success of the Club.
“Today’s announcement is the conclusion of a thorough and detailed process that has allowed the Investment Group to arrive at a deal that benefits all stakeholders and will leave Newcastle United well-placed to pursue a clear, long-term strategy.”
Ashley, the Sports Direct boss, bought the Magpies in 2007 but has been criticised by supporters for a perceived failure to invest in the team.
The club’s new owners clearly intend for the days of battling relegation to be numbered, with Staveley describing a “long-term investment” in order to ensure the Magpies are “regularly competing for major trophies and generat[ing] pride across the globe.”
The consortium, which also includes the Reuben Brothers and PCP Capital Partners, walked away from the deal in July last year.
That followed an initial determination by the Premier League that the kingdom of Saudi Arabia would be a director with control of the club, and therefore subject to its owners’ and directors’ test.