A Saudi Arabian-backed takeover of Newcastle United has been agreed, the Premier League and the club announced on Thursday.
The three-party consortium includes the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF), venture capital and private equity company PCP Capital Partners, and RB Sports and Media.
There has been much controversy about PIF’s involvement in the takeover, but the consortium was apparently able to successfully demonstrate that Saudi Arabia would not have control of the club and could therefore pass the Premier League’s owners’ and directors’ test.
“Following the completion of the Premier League’s Owners’ and Directors’ Test, the club has been sold to the consortium with immediate effect,” said a statement from the Premier League.
It added: “All parties have agreed the settlement is necessary to end the long uncertainty for fans over the club’s ownership. The Premier League has now received legally binding assurances that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will not control Newcastle United Football Club.”
PIF is a sovereign wealth fund chaired by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Its involvement in the takeover of Newcastle has been a long-running saga in English football, during which time Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, including the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, has come under scrutiny.
“It is so terrible to read that once again money has been more important than justice,” tweeted Hatice Cengiz, fiancée of the late Saudi journalist. “What a shame and embarrassment for @NUFC. What a shame and embarrassment for @NUFC.
“I hope the fans and players of @NUFC will hold their owners to account and ask them why no one knows where Jamal’s body is yet?”
The news has resonated among Newcastle supporters with a recent survey by the Newcastle United Supporters Trust showing that 94% of the 2,406 responses from members were in favor of the takeover.
The club’s previous owner Mike Ashley is an unpopular figure with fans and has been criticized for his lack of investment in the club.
Newcastle, one of the dominant teams in the Premier League in the years after the league’s inception, currently lies second from bottom.
In light of the takeover, Amnesty International has urged the Premier League to change its owners’ and directors’ test “to address human rights issues.”
Amnesty International chief executive, Sacha Deshmukh, said: “Instead of allowing those implicated in serious human rights violations to walk into English football simply because they have deep pockets, we’ve urged the Premier League to change their owners’ and directors’ test to address human rights issues.”
The Premier League has underlined that it is PIF, rather than the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, behind the takeover, and that the owner’s and director’s test is an objective test which is regularly reviewed.
In a press release, Amanda Staveley, CEO of PCP Capital Partners, said: “This is a long-term investment. We are excited about the future prospects for Newcastle United.
“We intend to instill a united philosophy across the club, establish a clear purpose, and help provide leadership that will allow Newcastle United to go on to big achievements over the long term.”
Yasir Al-Rumayyan, governor of PIF, said: “We are extremely proud to become the new owners of Newcastle United, one of the most famous clubs in English football. We thank the Newcastle fans for their tremendously loyal support over the years and we are excited to work together with them.”
A stumbling block in the Newcastle takeover last year was a feud between Qatari-based media giant beIN Media Group, which owns exclusive rights to the Premier League in the Middle East and North Africa, and Saudi Arabia.
BeIN has been banned in Saudi Arabia, and the broadcaster previously wrote to the Premier League asking it to “fully investigate” Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the “launch, promotion and operation” of alleged private streaming service beoutQ.
But Saudi Arabia will soon be lifting its ban on beIN Sports, according to a source with the Qatari broadcaster.
“BeIN has been informed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) that moves have been made to reverse the ban after four and a half years,” a beIN Sports source told CNN.
“The reason that is significant, is because then the Premier League can be watched in Saudi Arabia, which now owns a Premier League club.”
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Saudi Arabia has consistently denied any connection to beoutQ, according to PA. Last year, the Saudi Arabian Football Federation wrote to major sports bodies, according to the BBC, and acknowledged it has a “responsibility” to help fight broadcasting piracy.
CNN has reached out to Saudi Arabia for comment on the lifting of the ban.
CNN’s Hamdi Alkhshali contributed to reporting.