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Premier League risks becoming Saudi 'patsy': Amnesty International

Amnesty International have written to Premier League chief executive Richard Masters asking him to examine the human rights record of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince.

Mohammad bin Salman is leading a consortium that is set to buy Newcastle United from Mike Ashley for a reported £300million (€339million).

In the letter, Amnesty UK’s Director Kate Allen says there are “serious questions for the Premier League to address” concerning the deal.

Bin Salman, Amanda Staveley's PCP Capital Partners and the Reuben Brothers private equity and investment firm are due to seize control of the Premier League side in the coming days.

The involvement of the Saudi Crown Prince has led to renewed accusations of sportswashing, i.e. using a sporting investment to distract from human rights transgressions.

In Bin Salman's case, there are many such transgressions.

In 2019, bin Salman told CBS' 60 Minutes that he did not order the brutal death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi but did accept "full responsibility" for what he called a "heinous crime".

Amnesty's letter to Masters adds there have been other more recent human rights breaches "with government critics and human rights defenders arrested, tortured and put on trial, while at the same time there has been a marked increase in executions after unfair trials in the country."

In the letter, Allen explains:

"All businesses need to safeguard against any possible links to human rights violations, and English football is no different.

“We’re absolutely not saying who should end up running Newcastle United, but unless the Premier League pauses and looks seriously at the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia it risks becoming a patsy - a willing dupe of those trying to sportswash their abysmal human rights records.

“This is more than just a financial transaction - it’s an image-building exercise that draws on the prestige of the Premier League and the passion of Newcastle United’s fanbase.

“Whether or not this deal goes ahead, we’re calling on Newcastle United staff and fans to familiarise themselves with the dire human rights situation in Saudi Arabia and be prepared to speak out about it.

“At the very least, the Premier League should make a clear statement over how its owners and directors test has been applied in this case, and what assessment has been made of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record under Mohammad bin Salman’s leadership.”

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Amnesty International Human Rights Mike Ashley Mohammad Bin Salman Newcastle United Saudi Arabia

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