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7 Jun, 2020 16:13

Saudi takeover of Newcastle: MPs make fresh bid to block deal as they call on UK govt to act over 'sportswashing'

Saudi takeover of Newcastle: MPs make fresh bid to block deal as they call on UK govt to act over 'sportswashing'

A group of UK parliamentarians have written to the government to express their concern over the planned £300 million takeover of Premier League team Newcastle by a Saudi-led consortium, according to reports in the British media.

The Saudis are in the midst of sealing a big-money takeover of the North East club, in a deal which would see them take an 80 percent stake through the country's vast Public Investment Fund (PIF).

The takeover - which also involves 10 percent stakes going to UK investor Amanda Staveley and billionaire property developers the Reuben brothers - has been at the consideration stage with the Premier League for several weeks but has faced considerable pushback from various opposition groups.

The latest backlash has come in the form of a letter signed by 16 MPs and peers, including former Labour leader Neil Kinnock, which according to The Independent calls on the government to “take an active lead” in preventing so-called sportswashing in the country.

Also on rt.com Amanda Staveley: 'Britain's most glamorous financier' and the woman spearheading the mega-money Saudi arrival into football

Among the concerns cited are the Saudis' human rights record as well as the 2018 murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi. 

Khashoggi's fiancee has already reached out personally to Newcastle fans and Premier League chief executive Richard Masters in a bid to halt the entry of the Middle Eastern kingdom into the world's most popular football league.

In a recent letter, Masters informed Khashoggi's fiancée that he was "sympathetic" to her pleas, although he has given no sign that the takeover will be blocked.

Also on rt.com England's football media are aghast at the Saudis' Newcastle takeover... but expecting fans to rise up is deluded & diversionary

Elsewhere, Qatari broadcasters BeIN Sports have also voiced their opposition over alleged Saudi-backed piracy of Premier League matches, as part of a geopolitical struggle in the region.

Premier League bosses have received a report from the World Trade Organization (WTO) which allegedly links the Saudis to the pirate broadcasts, offering further ammunition to those attempting to halt the deal. 

Also on rt.com On the rocks: Saudi-funded takeover of Newcastle United in doubt as WTO report links Gulf State to pirate TV operation

UK Sport and Culture secretary Oliver Dowden has already said the government will not intervene in the takeover, and that it is a matter for the Premier League. 

The majority of Newcastle fans are desperately hoping that the takeover will get over the line as their club would become one of the richest in the world almost overnight. 

The vast Saudi PIF sovereign wealth fund is estimated to have assets in excess of $320 billion, and is part of the kingdom's plans to wean itself off a dependency on oil revenues. It is ultimately presided over by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Current Newcastle owner Mike Ashley, a retail billionaire, is widely disliked by fans and is seen as failing to invest the requisite funds in the team to restore them to their title-challenging days of the 1990s.

Also on rt.com Newcastle 'have made good offer to Pochettino' to become new manager as Saudi takeover nears completion