Newcastle United: Van drives poster around St James’ Park after Saudi takeover

A van drove a poster around Newcastle United’s St James’ Park stadium bearing the message “Justice for Jamal Khashoggi” on Sunday as the club’s new era under Saudi Arabian ownership began.

Last week Newcastle were bought from Mike Ashley by a consortium made up by financial firm Reuben Brothers, the businesswoman Amanda Staveley’s PCP Capital Partners, and Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund (PIF), which funded 80 per cent of the deal.

PIF is chaired by Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud, the country’s crown price who was found likely to have authorised the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by a CIA report. Khashoggi, a prominent critic of the Saudi regime, was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.

Newcastle’s new ownership began life in charge of the club on Sunday with the visit of Tottenham Hotspur. Some fans at the stadium celebrated the arrival of their new Saudi owners with flags and wearing traditional headdress.

Before the takeover was completed, Amnesty International made a plea for the Premier League to intervene and block the Saudi-led bid.

“Instead of allowing those implicated in serious human rights violations to walk into English football simply because they have deep pockets, we’ve urged the Premier League to change their owners’ and directors’ test to address human rights issues,” Amnesty UK chief executive Sacha Deshmukh said in a statement.

Khashoggi’s fiancée echoed those sentiments in a letter to the Premier League’s chief executive, Richard Masters.

“Ms Cengiz urges you and the board of the Premier League to take all necessary steps to prevent this takeover from happening,” lawyers said in the letter.

“It is undoubtedly the right, proper and lawful action for you and the Premier League to take especially in light of the ruthless killing of Ms Cengiz’s fiancé. There should be no place in the Premier League, and English football, for anyone involved in such abhorrent acts. It would be contrary to the letter and the spirit of the Premier League Chairmen’s Charter and the Rules of the Premier League, and the fundamental and honourable principles upon which they are based.”

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp this week said he had expected a statement from the league over the contentious takeover.

“I actually was waiting for some official statements about it. Like from Richard Masters or somebody else,” he said. “We all know there are obviously some concerns over human rights issues. That’s clear. We all think the same there.”

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