MILES WHITTINGHAM WRITES — In October 2021, the majority of the well-known English Premier League club Newcastle United was purchased by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia. The move has been met with widespread skepticism by fans and executives alike.
This isn’t the first time that something like this has happened in the British sporting world. In the last 15 years, three other English clubs have come under new ownership stemming from Arabian royalty. In 2008, Manchester City FC was taken over by Sheikh Mansour, Deputy Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates. With the funds he invested in Manchester City, it has become one of the world’s best teams.
Evidently, Newcastle’s new owners have the same idea in mind, but both top brass and fans will have to wait a couple of years to see the full effect that their new owner may have on the field. In the meantime, they’ll have to deal with any backlash coming from the world media and resistance on the part of the public due to seemingly unrelated affairs—namely, human rights.
Pundits in Europe and other parts of the world have called attention to Saudi Arabia’s negative human rights history–most notably, the situation surrounding the 2018 murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a US-based Saudi journalist who heavily criticized the kingdom in his writing. In an interview with the BBC, Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, said on the subject of the Saudis’ acquisition of Newcastle: “It is like giving the green light to those who have been linked with crime.” Other objections include punishing individuals involved in same-sex relationships and the extensive use of the death penalty.
Now, with a £305m deal completed, all eyes will be on the English Premier League to see if, in coming years, it may progress from a once no-name organization to one of soccer’s crown jewels. Such takeovers have happened before. Will history repeat itself?