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Newcastle United decision challenged by Amnesty International despite zero chance of influencing Premier League

2 years ago

It was always going to happen, Amnesty International getting involved in the debate surrounding the imminent Newcastle United takeover.

Just in case you didn’t know who they are: ‘Amnesty International is the world’s leading human rights organisation, campaigning against injustice and inequality everywhere.’

Their worry/objection of course is the involvement of the Saudi Arabia PIF in the deal to buy Newcastle United.

It is of course a symbolic challenge by Amnesty International to turn the spotlight on the situation, in that they know they have absolutely zero chance of influencing  the Premier League.

However, unlike some journalists who are trying to use the situation for their own benefit by pretending to be moral crusaders, Amnesty International are simply doing their job.

Fair play to them, they should be using this NUFC takeover to draw attention to the shameful things that happen in Saudi Arabia.

Just as they do when the Queen welcomes the Saudi royalty, or when UK politicians fawn over the Saudis, or when billions of pound of weapon are allowed to be sold by UK companies to Saudi Arabia. They know they can’t prevent these things happening but can turn the spotlight on them, turning people’ attention to what happens in Saudi Arabia.

This is the same for any country with appalling human rights records, Amnesty International having also regularly attacked the likes of Russia, China and Qatar in the past, countries that are all well represented in Premier League club ownership.

Whilst they do call on Newcastle fans to make sure they are aware of what goes on in Saudi Arabia (and ask them to speak out about it if possible) their main focus is rightly on the way the Premier League operates and by association, what the UK government allows. This is very different from certain unscrupulous journalists who have used the situation to launch cowardly attacks on Newcastle fans, as though we had any vote on who owns our club, ever.

You have to laugh though when in the Amnesty International statement, it talks about this NUFC situation being ‘at odds with the values of the Premier League and the global footballing community’…

This is the Premier League that is built purely on greed and where simply anything goes and anybody is allowed to join and take over a club, whether it is with dodgy/dubious money from whatever country/source.

As for the global footballing community, you have had the World Cup hosting bought by Russia and Qatar, with so many of those running football exposed as corrupt.

Good luck to Amnesty International and hopefully as time goes on, the Saudi Arabia PIF link with Newcastle United will prove some kind of positive, giving a focus for Amnesty International to target some of their efforts AND most importantly, lead to some kind of change / progress in Saudi Arabia when it comes to human rights.

In a letter from Amnesty UK director Kate Allen addressed to Premier League chief executive Richard Masters:

‘I believe there are serious questions to address in determining whether the owners and directors of the company seeking to acquire NUFC are meeting standards that can protect the reputation and image of the game.

‘If the Crown Prince, by virtue of his authority over Saudi Arabia’s economic relations and via control of his country’s sovereign wealth fund, becomes the beneficial owner of NUFC, how can this be positive for the reputation and image of the Premier League?

‘So long as these questions (concerning Saudi Arabia’s human rights record) remain unaddressed, the Premier League is putting itself at risk of becoming a patsy of those who want to use the glamour and prestige of Premier League football to cover up actions that are deeply immoral, in breach of international law and at odds with the values of the Premier League and the global footballing community.’

‘While Saudi Arabia would not be the only country whose businesses have bought a significant stake in a Premier League club, there are two aspects of the proposed acquisition that would set this apart.

‘First, Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy in which the Crown Prince plays the role of King and has control of all economic, political and foreign relations. With oversight of the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund, it is very unlikely that an important business transaction such as the takeover of a Premier League club could happen without his authorisation.’

Then in a statement separate to the letter sent to Masters, Kate Allen of Amnesty International:

‘…there’s a danger that the pandemic could obscure the need for a cool, measured and genuinely ethical decision over this Newcastle deal.

‘All businesses need to safeguard against any possible links to human rights violations, and English football is no different.

‘This is more than just a financial transaction, it’s an image-building exercise that draws on the prestige of the Premier League and the passion of Newcastle United’s fanbase.

“Whether or not this deal goes ahead, we’re calling on Newcastle United staff and fans to familiarise themselves with the dire human rights situation in Saudi Arabia and be prepared to speak out about it.

“At the very least, the Premier League should make a clear statement over how its owners and directors test has been applied in this case, and what assessment has been made of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record under Mohammad bin Salman’s leadership.’


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