Saudi-led consortium closes deal to buy Newcastle United

London, Oct 7 (EFE).- A consortium led by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) finalized on Thursday the purchase of Premier League club Newcastle United.

“Following the completion of the Premier League’s Owners’ and Directors’ Test, the club has been sold to the consortium with immediate effect,” the English soccer league said in a statement.

PIF, a sovereign wealth fund controlled by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, provided a large part of the 300 million pounds ($407 million) to finance the deal and will hold 80 percent of the club.

The deal had been in limbo for 18 months because of a dispute between the Saudis and Qatar-based beIN Sports over illegal streaming of Premier League matches.

Saudi Arabia and beIN reached an agreement on Wednesday.

Another stumbling block, concern that the transaction would leave Newcastle effectively under the control of the Saudi government, has also been resolved, the Premier League said.

“The Premier League has now received legally binding assurances that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will not control Newcastle United Football Club,” the league said.

“All parties are pleased to have concluded this process which gives certainty and clarity to Newcastle United Football Club and their fans,” the Premier League said.

Ahead of Thursday’s announcement, Amnesty International had described the proposed deal 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.”

But surveys show that the takeover is welcomed by Newcastle fans who are hopeful the Magpies will mimic the success enjoyed by Manchester City since its purchase 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 by the new owners, with Antonio Conte and Zinedine Zidane being touted as potential successors. EFE msg/ks/mp/dr

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