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Politicians make last-gasp bid to derail Saudi takeover of Newcastle

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Premier League chief executive, Richard Masters. Photo: PA

Premier League chief executive, Richard Masters. Photo: PA

PA

Premier League chief executive, Richard Masters. Photo: PA

A group of cross-party British MPs have launched an 11th-hour bid to torpedo the Saudi Arabia takeover at Newcastle United, by telling the Premier League any deal will help whitewash the state's repressive regime.

England's top tier "should do everything in its power to bring individuals carrying out human rights abuses to account", according to the letter from eight MPs to Richard Masters, the league's chief executive.

The group expressed particular concern at Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's chairmanship of the state's Public Investment Fund (PIF), which wants an 80 per cent stake in Newcastle.

"Unless Saudi Arabia reform their criminal justice system and release all political detainees, the Premier League cannot sign-off on the sale of Newcastle United to PIF," says the letter from John Nicolson, Damian Collins, Caroline Lucas, John McDonnell, Crispin Blunt, Virendra Sharma, Alistair Carmichael, Lord Judd, Chris Law and Baroness Young of Hornsey.

The state-ordered murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi has been disastrous for Bin Salman's current campaign to earn new Western allies, but he has pressed ahead with dramatic reform in his attempts to modernise Saudi Arabia, and diverse his economy away from oil.

Warnings

Masters has already received several warnings over the deal from the likes of Amnesty International over the state's human rights record and Qatari broadcaster BeIN Sports over the nation's role in the beOutQ TV piracy scandal.

With a long-awaited decision from the league's directors and owners' test still pending, the MPs see their letter to Masters as the last chance to derail the deal.

The MPs claim the Premier League's own rulebook should immediately exclude Saudi. "According to sub paragraph F.1.5.2 and F.1.5.3, these offences include 'any offence involving any act which could reasonably be considered to be dishonest'," the letter adds, also citing oppressive living conditions for women.

"We are seeking clarification on how the Premier League could possibly define the head of one of the most repressive regimes in the world as 'fit and proper'.

"This is the head of a regime whose war in Yemen has resulted in one of the worst humanitarian disasters in the world, who executed 184 people in 2019, and who continue to repress any form of dissent."

© Daily Telegraph, London

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