Amnesty International has requested the Premier League chief executive Richard Masters to commence an “urgent” meeting on the proposed changes to football’s takeover rules following Newcastle United’s take over by Saudi Arabian-backed Consortium.
Amnesty has offered to meet Masters with corporate lawyer David Chivers QC, who last year co-wrote a new human rights-compliant owners’ and directors’ test on the campaign group’s behalf.
This updated test and rules for the takeover was sent to the Premier League last July when the deal between the Saudi-led group and the football club appeared unlikely to proceed.
“However, the speedy finalizing of the deal last week has lent new impetus to calls on the league to urgently update its ownership rules,” Amnesty said. “Amnesty’s analysis shows the current ownership test has numerous serious shortcomings, with no bar on ownership for those complicit in acts of torture, slavery, human trafficking or even war crimes.”
Amnesty International UK’s chief executive Sacha Deshmukh said that the deal raised a number of “troubling questions” and concerns.
The takeover was almost 80% financed by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, whose chair is Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Deshmukh said, ”The way the Premier League waved this deal through raises a host of deeply troubling questions about sports washing, about human rights and sport, and about the integrity of English football.”
The Amnesty chief added, “How can it be right that the Premier League’s current owners’ and directors’ test have nothing whatsoever to say about human rights?”
Deshmukh added: “The events of last week will have lent even more urgency to the Government’s ongoing review of the governance of English football.
“Football is a global sport on a global stage – it urgently needs to update its ownership rules to prevent those implicated in serious human rights violations from buying into the passion and glamour of English football.”
The Premier League replied that the new owners were separate from the state of Saudi Arabia adding that it had received legal assurances from the new owners that the Saudi state would not control Newcastle United and there would be punishments if it was proven otherwise.
There are many human rights cases of abuse linked to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, including the recent murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
A fan-led review into English football and its governance is currently underway.
Sports minister Nigel Huddleston said that recently the acquisitions of any team is “an issue for football”. He added that a fit and proper test to be applied as at the end of the day we have got to trust football to do its job and look after itself.