The Premier League was urged on Thursday to review a legally binding promise made by the owners of English soccer club Newcastle in 2021 that Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund was separate from the country’s government.
A US court document filed by lawyers for Saudi-backed LIV Golf in a case against the PGA Tour revealed this week that the Public Investment Fund should be considered «a foreign state».
The document appeared to contradict a statutory assurance accepted by the Premier League when a protracted takeover of Newcastle was completed in October 2021 with PIF holding an 80% ownership stake.
At the time, Premier League chief executive Richard Masters told the BBC in an interview that the Saudi state would not control Newcastle and if that was proven not to be true, «we can remove the consortium as the owner.»
PREMIER LEAGUE CLUB NEWCASTLE BUYED BY SAUDI SOVEREIGN WEALTH FUND
Human rights group Amnesty International, which campaigned against the takeover deal, said on Thursday it should be reviewed again.
«The Premier League will surely have to re-examine the assurances given about the non-participation of the Saudi authorities in the Newcastle deal,» Amnesty’s director of economic affairs Peter Frankental said in a statement.
«It was always stretching credulity to imagine that the Saudi state was not directing the purchase,» Frankental said, adding that the deal had «the ultimate goal of using the club as a component in its broader sportswear laundering efforts.» «.
The Premier League on Thursday declined to comment on the matter.
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The $358 million takeover was popular with most Newcastle fans. The club moved from the Premier League relegation zone 17 months ago to challenge for a Champions League place this season. In some games, the team has worn a white and green jersey as the Saudi Arabia national team.
In the US court case, lawyers for LIV Golf argued that PIF and its governor, Newcastle Chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan, were not «ordinary third parties» and should be exempted from some standards in the discovery phase of the case.
“They are a sovereign instrument of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the filing said, adding that the discovery warrant was “an extraordinary infringement of the sovereignty of a foreign state.”
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The PIF is chaired by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, and six of the other eight board members listed on its website are government ministers. He says he has assets under management valued at $620 billion last year.
At a football industry conference in London on Thursday, Newcastle co-owner Amanda Staveley described the PIF as «effectively a pension fund».
«They are managing money for future generations,» Staveley told the Financial Times’ Business of Football Summit during a panel discussion.
The panel did not address the US court document.