Premier League must overhaul owners’ test, says Amnesty


London (AFP) – The Premier League needs to overhaul its owners’ and directors’ test after the collapse of the proposed £300 million Saudi-backed takeover of Newcastle United, Amnesty International has said.

The rights group said the test was “hopelessly unsuited” to the task of ensuring proper scrutiny of the human rights records of those trying to buy into English football clubs.

The test outlines factors that would prohibit an individual from becoming an owner or director of a club including various criminal convictions and breaches of certain key football regulations such as match-fixing.

A Saudi-backed consortium last week ended its $395-million bid to buy Newcastle after reportedly striking the deal in April, blaming the “prolonged process” and global uncertainty.

The Public Investment Fund (PIF), chaired by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, had been set to take an 80 percent stake.

In April, Amnesty wrote to Premier League chief executive Richard Masters raising concerns about the takeover, warning it was part of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to “sportswash” its human rights record — investing in sport to deflect attention away from human rights issues.

Hatice Cengiz, the fiancee of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, wrote to the Premier League to oppose the deal.

There were also concerns expressed over the issue of piracy of sports broadcasting rights.

Amnesty has sent a proposed rights-compliant test to Masters.

Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK’s director, said: “The controversy around the Saudi-Newcastle deal has been a major wake-up call — the Premier League urgently needs to get its house in order.

“The current owners’ and directors’ test is hopelessly unsuited to the task of vetting who gets to own and run English football clubs — it needs a serious overhaul.

“At present, anyone wishing to sportswash their reputation by buying into English football can do so knowing that even their involvement in war crimes or torture wouldn’t stop them.”

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