A Saudi Arabia-backed consortium has ended its bid to buy Newcastle United in a deal worth £300 million ($447 million).
Human rights groups had been calling on the premier League to scrutinise the deal and not to allow Saudi Arabia to “sportswash” its human rights abuses through the purchase of the club.
The consortium said that it was with “regret” that it had pulled out.”As an autonomous and purely commercial investor, our focus was on building long-term value for the club, its fans and the community as we remained committed to collaboration, practicality and proactivity through a difficult period of global uncertainty and significant challenges for the fans and the club,” the investor group said in a statement.
“Ultimately, during the unforeseeably prolonged process, the commercial agreement between the Investment Group and the club’s owners expired and our investment thesis could not be sustained.” FIFA Ethics and Regulation Watch (FERW) had also 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.
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.”
Analysts believe Saudi will still be aiming to buy the Premier League TV rights when the tender opens next year, in an effort to unseat Qatar’s beIN Sport station.