UK government urged to stop ‘dodging’ Newcastle takeover and intervene

UK – (WARSOOR) – The UK government should stop “dodging” the issues surrounding the proposed Saudi Arabian takeover of Newcastle and intervene, according to Conservative MP Karl McCartney.

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which is headed up by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is believed to be closing in on a £300 million ($375m) bid to take the club out of current owner Mike Ashley’s hands.

The Saudi group would own 80 per cent of the club. The remaining 20% would be split between Amanda Staveley’s PCP Capital Partners (10%) and British businessmen the Reuben brothers (10%).

However the takeover has proven controversial, with the Saudi regime having been accused of many human rights abuses.

Human rights organisation Amnesty International warned the Premier League that it risks becoming a “patsy” if it allows the takeover to proceed.

Hatice Cengiz, whose fiancee Jamal Khashoggi was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018, has also warned against the takeover.

Following an investigation, the CIA concluded in November 2018 that Bin Salman ordered the assassination of Khashoggi. 

There are also allegations of piracy by Saudi television broadcaster beoutQ, which has been accused of illegally broadcasting a range of sporting events, including the Premier League.

As a result McCartney believes Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, should intervene on behalf of the government.

“Newcastle United– the club of England football legends, such as Alan Shearer, John Barnes, Paul Gascoigne, Kevin Keegan, Sir Bobby Robson and many others – is set to have 80 per cent of its finances supplied by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund,” McCartney told Conservative Home.

“Given the country’s levels of personal prosecution, rules and regulations regarding individual freedoms, sentencing for law breakers, and the killing of Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 – whose death was allegedly ordered by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, this news will make many people shudder.

“Yet despite the legitimate concerns put forth from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Khashoggi’s fiancee, the deal seems to be going ahead.

“For me, the most insidious fact about this purchase is profit. Not that profit is a bad thing – but it shouldn’t come at the expense of everything else, Yet that is the core aim of the buyers: Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the nominated Chairman, is on record as saying the most important thing for him with any investment is a double-digit return for Saudi Arabia – not English football. 

“A mass investment in the club, part of our national game, akin to the likes of the Manchester City purchase, this is not.

“Two weeks ago now, my colleague, Oliver Dowden, refused to be drawn on this issue when he appeared before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee. Understandable, perhaps. No-one wants to confront a country which has historically been one of our biggest export markets, and so I have some limited sympathy with him. 

“But frankly, the Premier League, Wimbledon, Horse Racing and Formula One are some of our country’s greatest sporting exports. And football fans across the UK, and there are many of us, deserve better from their government than Dowden’s dodging. 

“At a time when the whole country is hurting from the coronavirus crisis, early last week it emerged in another DCMS Committee inquiry session that broadcast revenues for the Premier League (totalling £3 billion) barely cover total player wages (£2.9 billion). 

“Anything that undermines the value of UK football risks driving down the value of broadcast revenues, putting at risk clubs’ financial sustainability. This means that British football could struggle to attract the kind of talent we have come to expect and admire.

“That is a disgrace. It’s time we took this seriously. The stakes could not be higher for UK football as an entity. It’s time to stop gambling with its future; it’s time to stop Saudi piracy. The best way to start is to block, at the very least delay, the Saudi purchase of Newcastle United – and at least impose some sanctions before allowing it to progress.

“Otherwise this will lead to wage reductions (perhaps overdue), less taxes paid, and more clubs under financial pressure and vulnerable to takeover.

“I believe in free markets, but I also believe in a level playing field and not trying to ‘pull a fast one’. It is time we sent them, and others around the world, a message loud and clear: hands off our football, stop stealing our national assets and play by the rules – or suffer the consequences.”