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FIFA watchdog: Saudi 'sportswashing' abuse with purchase of UK football club

April 22, 2020 at 9:51 am

Newcastle United Football Club, 25 January 2020 [Youtube]

FIFA Ethics and Regulation Watch (FERW) has criticised the British government for allowing the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF), chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, to take a controlling stake in Newcastle United.

FERW said in a statement that it was concerned that governments with poor human rights records like Saudi Arabia are “pouring money into the sport in an attempt to improve their image”; a practice known as “sportswashing”.

READ: Mike Ashley to sell Newcastle to Arab billionaire for $445m

In a letter to the British Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport, Oliver Dowden, FERW said: “The prospective purchase of Newcastle United by a consortium, which is 80 percent owned by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, is concerning because of their poor human rights record. Allegations against the Saudi regime include authorising the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident, and journalist for The Washington Post, human rights activists facing being jailed with little or no access to fair trials or judicial rights, and the increasing use of online espionage against its opponents.”

US President Donald Trump protects the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman [Twitter]

US President Donald Trump protects the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman [Twitter]

The letter cited Amnesty International saying that Saudi Arabia is attempting to use the glamour and prestige of Premier League football as a PR tool to distract from the country’s abysmal human rights record.

The FIFA watchdog called for a review of the decision.