PL to meet Amnesty International to discuss revised owners’ test

The Premier League has agreed to meet Amnesty International to discuss a “revised human-rights compliant” owners’ and directors’ test following the Saudi Arabia-led takeover of Newcastle.

Amnesty UK boss Sacha Deshmukh wrote to Premier League chief executive Richard Masters earlier this month to demand a sit down to negotiate changes to the current rules, which he describes as “woefully inadequate”.

There was widespread criticism of the £305m takeover – Deshmukh said it was “an extremely bitter blow for human rights defenders” – which was only allowed to go through after the Premier League was given “legally binding assurances” that the Gulf nation would have no involvement in the running of the club.

Amnesty has concerns about the promise of separation between the Saudi government and Newcastle due to Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman being listed as chair of the sovereign wealth fund, Public Investment Fund, which now has a controlling stake in Newcastle.

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Despite his uneasiness regarding the situation, Amnesty UK CEO Deshmukh is glad the Premier League is being receptive and hopes to kickstart a “a process that leads to considerable strengthening of the rules on football governance” following his meeting with Masters.

“The current rules concerning who owns and runs English football clubs are woefully inadequate, with no bar on ownership for those complicit in acts of torture, slavery, human trafficking or even war crimes,” Deshmukh said.

“The Saudi buyout of Newcastle United always looked like an attempt to sportswash Saudi Arabia’s appalling human rights record with the glamour and prestige of the Premier League and top-flight football.

“Under Mohammed bin Salman’s leadership, government critics and human rights defenders have been jailed, civilian deaths from Saudi bombing in Yemen have mounted inexorably, and the grotesque killing of Jamal Khashoggi has been subject to a whitewash.

“There is now huge disquiet over the cynical use of English football to sportswash human rights abuse.

“We’re keen to discuss with Richard Masters our ideas for a human rights-compliant Owners’ and Directors’ test which can help weed out unsuitable owners complicit in human rights violations, as well as reducing sportswashing and generally improving governance within the game.”

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