Newcastle United: Premier League ‘comfortable and satisfied’ Saudi state will not interfere

Premier League CEO on Newcastle United takeover
Premier League CEO on Newcastle United takeover

Premier League chief executive Richard Masters has told the BBC it has “ways of being comfortable and satisfied” that the Saudi state will not interfere with the running of Newcastle United.

The club was taken over by a consortium led by the country’s sovereign wealth fund last month.

The Premier League had received “legally binding assurances” that the Saudi state would not control the club.

Masters says the owners can be removed if “evidence to the contrary” is found.

However, he admitted that the league may not necessarily be aware if the country’s Crown Prince – who is also the chairman of PIF – gave orders to the club’s directors.

Speaking to BBC Sports Editor Dan Roan in his first public comments since the league approved the deal, Masters added: “In that instance, I don’t think we would know. [But] I don’t think it is going to happen.”

When asked how he could make a distinction between the Saudi state and PIF, Masters said: “There is a corporate difference between the two, there is.

“That is what we were investigating – whether the Saudi state could control the club through the investment fund. We have received assurances that is not the case.”

Gary Hoffman is to step down as chairman of the Premier League following a backlash from clubs relating to the takeover, while Human rights groups have said the deal is an attempt to improve the country’s image by ‘sportswashing’ its record on human rights abuses.

Asked about those concerns, Masters added: “The takeover has gone through and we have to be comfortable that all the things we do at the Premier League will be preserved under the new ownership and the equality and diversity scheme will be preserved.

“You can’t have one rule for one and one for another and so Newcastle will be run on the right basis.

“PIF are an investor in many other companies in this country and maybe football is being targeted and talked about in a different way. I can’t choose who is chairing a football club. The owners test doesn’t let us take a view on that.”

Jonjo Shelvey
Newcastle captain Jonjo Shelvey wears a rainbow armband in the Premier League match against West Brom in December

This weekend is the start of the Premier League and Stonewall’s ‘Rainbow Laces’ annual event, promoting equality and inclusion.

The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (Ilga), which monitors the progress of laws relating to homosexuality around the world, said in May that the death penalty remains the legally-prescribed penalty for same-sex sexual acts in Saudi Arabia.

“Of course I see the conflict,” said Masters.

“What I am concerned about is that the club itself is abiding by all of those [equality and diversity] key criteria and, to my satisfaction, they are.”