Amnesty International has called for a meeting with Premier League chief executive Richard Masters over the controversial Newcastle United takeover.
Sacha Deshmukh, Chief Executive Officer of Amnesty, asked for the opportunity to discuss changing the Premier League Owners and Directors test to incorporate clauses protecting human rights.
The takeover of Newcastle by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, raised questions about the possibility of “sportwashing” by a Saudi state whose human rights record had been described as “Excruciating” by Amnesty.
The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, chairs the PIF. Its governor, Yasir al-Rumayyan, was appointed non-executive chairman of Newcastle following the takeover.
The Premier League said it had “legally binding assurances” that the Saudi state would not control Newcastle. Last week, the Guardian reported that the other 19 English top-flight clubs also called for an emergency meeting to discuss the deal and how quickly it was reached.
Last year, Amnesty commissioned David Chivers QC to undertake an exercise, rewriting the owner and manager test in a form that takes into account potential human rights violations. Deshmukh offered to bring Chivers to any meeting with the Masters to talk about the revised code.
“The way the Premier League came to this deal raises a host of deeply troubling questions about the washing of sport, about human rights and sport, and about the integrity of English football,” Deshmukh said. “Football is a global sport on a global stage – it urgently needs to update its ownership rules to prevent those involved in serious human rights violations from embracing the passion and glamor of football English.
“We hope Richard Masters will see that bringing football ownership rules in line with human rights can only be for the long-term good of the game.”