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Newcastle United blame Premier League for failed Saudi takeover

English Premier League says it is "disappointed and surprised" after Newcastle statement hints at legal action
Newcastle United will play their first match of the 2020/21 season against West Ham on Saturday
Newcastle United will play first match of 2020/21 season against West Ham on Saturday (Reuters/File photo)

Newcastle United released a statement criticising the English Premier League (EPL) for the failure of a Saudi-led takeover of the historic football club. 

A consortium led by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF) withdrew its interest in buying the northeast England football club in July, after several months of waiting to pass the league's owners and directors test - formerly known as the "fit and proper persons" test.

Newcastle confirmed in a statement that the EPL had officially rejected the takeover bid, and emphasised its disapproval of the process. 

“This conclusion has been reached despite the club providing the Premier League with overwhelming evidence and legal opinions that PIF is independent and autonomous of the Saudi Arabian government,” a club statement read on Wednesday evening.

The PIF is chaired by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Of the fund’s eight other board members, six are Saudi government ministers and one is a royal court adviser. 

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Amanda Staveley, one of the leading members of the investment group that sought to buy the club, said in July that the takeover failed partly due to the EPL demanding that the Saudi state become a director of the football club.

"The club and its owners do not accept that Premier League chief executive Richard Masters and the Premier League have acted appropriately in relation to this matter and will be considering all relevant options available to them," Newcastle United said, hinting at possible legal action. 

The Premier League responded on Thursday, stating it was "disappointed and surprised" by the claims. 

"The assertion that the Premier League rejected the takeover is incorrect," the league said in a statement. 

"The Premier League Board has, on a number of occasions, given its opinion about which entities it believes would have control over the club should the consortium proceed with the acquisition. That opinion is based on legal advice. 

"This means the potential takeover could proceed to the next stage should the relevant entities provide all appropriate information. They would then be subject to a suitability assessment by the board."

The takeover came under intense scrutiny in June when a report by the World Trade Organisation said that prominent Saudi nationals promoted beoutQ, an illegal pirate network that streamed content from Qatar's beIN Sports.

The deal was also criticised from the outset by human rights advocates, who accused Saudi Arabia of using Newcastle United to "sportswash" its human rights record. 

Newcastle fans of Arab descent from northeast England's historic Yemeni and Muslim communities told MEE last month that they were "really pleased" the takeover had collapsed. 

"I couldn't support a team owned by people openly taking out distant relatives that I'll never be able to speak to again," Robbie Parkin, a third-generation Yemeni football coach said. 

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