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Men’s Football Saudi’s Newcastle takeover bid ends

HUMAN rights campaigners welcomed Saudi Arabia’s decision to walk away from the Newcastle takeover, stating that negotiations should never have started. 

The PIF had been set to take an 80 per cent stake in the Premier League club but withdrew its interest, after the process was stalled by concerns about piracy by the kingdom and human rights complaints.

The league has spent four months considering whether to approve the £300 million takeover that would have seen the PIF gain an 80 per cent take in the north-east club.

The British-based Reuben brothers and financier Amanda Staveley were planning to each buy the remaining 10 per cent stakes to end the ownership of retail tycoon Mike Ashley.

On Saudi regime’s decision, Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “This is the right outcome for the wrong reasons. The negotiations should never have taken place. The history and character of the Saudi regime should have been enough to prevent it even being considered. 

“The message this deal would have sent is a terrible one. The FA must look at the 'fit and proper persons test and strengthen it to ensure that clubs are not entering negotiations with human rights abusers in the future. Football clubs should never be propaganda vehicles for dictatorships."

The Premier League never gave an indication on the progress of the stalled takeover and when it would make a decision.

Amnesty International asked the league to consider blocking the bid because the fund was overseen by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and said he had been involved in a “sweeping crackdown on human rights,” as well as being linked to the brutal murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The takeover bid was also complicated by the World Trade Organisation recently ruling that Saudi Arabia failed to stop a broadcasting operation pirating sports coverage — including of Premier League games — and blocked moves to shut it down in a proxy of the Gulf economic and diplomatic dispute with Qatar.

The Qatar-owned beIN Sports network, which is banned from operating in Saudi Arabia, holds the Middle East rights that are being pirated by beoutQ.

The Premier League wrote to the Office of the United States Trade Representative in February to highlight the lack of legal action taken by Saudi Arabia over beoutQ despite complaints.

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