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Piracy, murder, top level politics – the controversial Newcastle United takeover


Pity poor Newcastle fans having their emotions pulled around by the latest developments in the murky, year-long Saudi takeover torture.

Where do the chances of a Saudi Arabia funded revival at St James’ Park stand today?

Certainly no further forward, and possibly damaged, if that was possible.

Claims that Saudi ruler Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally lobbied PM Boris Johnson to force the Premier League to approve the £300m deal – denied by the Government – is a mere blip in a saga that continues to divide, enrage and intrigue.

Glory and goal celebrations, it most certainly isn’t.

“We expect the English Premier League to reconsider its wrong conclusion….” bin Salman is said to have written to Johnson.

There also came a warning that Anglo-Saudi relations would be damaged unless he got his way.



Fans deserve some clarity on the future ownership of Newcastle United

This appears to be an own goal by bin Salman. Among many.

On one hand the Saudi government sovereign wealth vehicle, the Public Investment Fund, claim bin Salman, and the state, wouldn’t be the ultimate owner of Newcastle United, and that there is legal separation.

But here is the Crown Prince, who is also Chairman of the PIF, with several government ministers on the board, said to be making personal demands on its behalf, and linking it to Saudi trade.

There is already a load of evidence of MBS’s control over the PIF, including speeches and government propaganda, but this just adds another problematic layer for Mike Ashley’s current legal battle with the Premier League.

The irony of this latest twist, tied up in a wider story of back channel lobbying, is that it failed.



Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

Indeed, the Amanda Staveley-led consortium are big supporters of the Conservative Party, and might have thought their unswerving loyalty to the Tory cause might be noticed. Staveley’s PCP Capital Partners would have earned a 10pc stake if the deal went through.

Before the General Election in December 2019, Staveley was one of 47 businesswomen to sign a letter slamming Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party, arguing Boris’s Brexit deal was a “huge advantage” and to “urge people to vote Conservative this Thursday to end the uncertainty, put Brexit behind us.”



Amanda Staveley, chief executive officer of PCP Capital Partners LLP
Amanda Staveley, chief executive officer of PCP Capital Partners LLP

Mayfair property Tycoon Jamie Reuben, who was also to take a 10pc stake in Newcastle United as part of the Saudi deal, is reported to have donated around £580,000 to the Tories between October 2019 and March 2020.

He was also committee chairman for Johnson’s London Mayoral re-election campaign in 2012.

Even with business allies Staveley and Reuben involved, and with his so-called Red Wall seats up North to keep sweet, Boris and his Ministers, it seems, let the Premier League run its own rule book.

And so far the Premier League have said: No deal.

And we go back to the year-old arguments.

There’s piracy. The Premier League TV rights were ripped off in Saudi Arabia. Effectively a great British export, along with content from others including Wimbledon, the Six Nations and BBC Worldwide, being stolen. Conduct that is hardly going to be endorsed by the UK Government’s Department of Trade.

Then there’s human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Some argue the Khashoggi killing, which the US government (and CIA) recently pinned on bin Salman’s regime, has little do with a PIF buy-out of Newcastle United.



Journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018
Journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.

However, a Canadian court recently heard that two Gulfstream jets used to fly the 15-strong murder squad to Turkey to do the killing, were owned by the PIF.

The PIF being the company who would, if bin Salman got his way, by the legal owners of Newcastle United.

Little wonder the Premier League’s lawyers are standing firm.

Mike Ashley continues his “arbitration” case with the Premier League, the progress of which remains unknown.

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