Saudi-backed buyout of Newcastle close to completion

London, Oct 7 (EFE).- A Saudi Arabian consortium is poised to complete its purchase of Premier League club Newcastle United.

Once confirmed, the takeover would end British businessman Mike Ashley’s 14-year ownership of the team, according to reports in the British media.

Public Investment Fund (PIF), a Saudi sovereign wealth fund controlled by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, will provide a large part of the 300 million pounds to finance the deal.

The deal had been blocked 18 months ago by the Premier League because of piracy issues in Saudi Arabia with Qatari broadcaster BeIn Sports, one of the rights holders to the competition.

Although there has been widespread criticism of the purchase, with Saudi Arabia being accused of committing human rights abuses, PIF is considered to be independent of the state, so the Premier League cannot back out of the deal.

Amnesty International has described it as a “blatant attempt by the government of Saudi Arabia to try to sportswash its abysmal human rights record by buying into the passion, prestige and pride of Tyneside football.

“Amnesty has repeatedly warned that Saudi Arabia under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has embarked on a programme of ‘sportswashing’ to try to obscure Saudi Arabia’s extremely poor human rights record,” the group said.

But Newcastle fans are largely in favor of the takeover, according to surveys, as they hope that the club will mimic the success enjoyed by Manchester City, who were bought in 2008 by Sheik Mansour, a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family and deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates.

Current manager Steve Bruce, who is deeply unpopular with fans, is likely to be shown the door once the takeover is complete, with Antonio Conte and Zinedine Zidane being touted as potential successors. EFE


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