Saudi Arabia is on the verge of completing a £300m takeover of Newcastle United Football Club.
The deal moved closer to completion on Tuesday as documentation lodged with Companies House revealed the name of a potential new club director.
Bander bin Mogren, the chief operating officer of Saudi’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), was added as a director of NCUK Investment Ltd on April 9. NCUK Investment is a shell company established in January by Yasir al-Rumayyan, the director of the PIF, as a vehicle to facilitate the transfer of shares from Newcastle’s current owner Mike Ashley.
The Public Investment Fund – a body chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – is the majority force in an alliance also including the billionaire-backed UK company Reuben Brothers and the financier Amanda Staveley.
While PIF would own 80% of the club, Reuben Brothers and Staveley’s company, PCP Capital Partners, would each hold 10% stakes.
Current owner Ashley has been paid a non-refundable £17m deposit from the new owners, with the remaining £283m due on completion.
Meanwhile, human rights group Amnesty International has written to the Premier League asking them to fully consider the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia as part of the Premier League’s Owners and Directors Test.
In the letter, Amnesty UK’s director Kate Allen said there are “serious questions for the Premier League to address” concerning the deal.
She said: “All businesses need to safeguard against any possible links to human rights violations, and English football is no different. We’re absolutely not saying who should end up running Newcastle United, but unless the Premier League pauses and looks seriously at the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia it risks becoming a patsy – a willing dupe of those trying to sportswash their abysmal human rights records.”
Allen added: “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. How can this be positive for the reputation and image of the Premier League?”
Saudi Arabia has branched out into sport in recently – the nation hosted Anthony Joshua’s boxing heavyweight world title rematch with Andy Ruiz Jr, and have plans in place for an F1 Grand Prix in 2023.