Sport is the winner in the collapse of attempted Saudi takeover of Newcastle United

30 Jul, 2020 | Press Releases

Brussels – Rome, 30 July 2020

NPWJ welcomes today’s collapse of the deal for Mohamed Bin Salman, Crown Prince of the current King of Saudi Arabia Salmān bin ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz Āl Saʿū, to purchase Newcastle United Football Club. This is a significant victory for the sports world, countering a push by Saudi Arabia to inject politics into sport and to turn a great team with a glorious history and a bright future into a public relations stunt for the Prince.   

It has been a long time coming: on 28 April, Hatice Cengiz, fiancé of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, sent an open letter to the Premier League asking them to reject the takeover of Newcastle United by Mohamed Bin Salman, because of his involvement in her fiancé’s murder. On 20 May, Ms Cengiz to Richard Masters, Chief Executive of the Premier League, requesting a meeting before a decision is made. In a 28 May letter to Ms Cengiz’s lawyer, Mr Masters acknowledged the Premier League was sympathetic, noting they were “fully considering” her call to block the takeover deal. 

In response to news that Mohamed Bin Salman’s consortium was forced to pull out of the deal, Ms Cengiz’s lawyer, Rodney Dixon QC, stated “the Mohamed Bin Salman Saudi Public Investment Fund backed consortium is trying to damage control by covering up a major embarrassment. They were forced to pull out because the Premier League rules would not allow the takeover. The rule of law has prevailed and that is absolutely vital for justice for Jamal and for us all”. 

Ms Cengiz commented on the decision via twitter, saying: “This is a victory for human rights and decency and clear defeat for Mohamed Bin Salman and his efforts to sports-wash his human rights record. I’m grateful to The Premier League for putting principles and values ahead of profit. I’m thankful to the Newcastle United Fans, Members of Parliament and NGOs who spoke out against this deal. Let this defeat send a strong message to the leadership in Saudi Arabia that they will not be able to use their money to cover up their human rights record or protect those responsible for Jamal’s murder. We will not stop and we will not rest until we get Justice for Jamal.”  

Download the letter for the full text.

Since the murder of her fiancé inside the Consulate of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul on 2 October 2018, Ms Cengiz has started an awareness campaign called “Justice for Jamal” – supported by No Peace Without Justice – to keep the international community’s attention high, to obtain truth and justice about the circumstances surrounding his killing and to identify and hold accountable all those who perpetrated his death, whether directly or remotely. “This scandalous murder – which was an affront to freedom of speech and human dignity – is not an isolated case, but is part of a model of widespread repression against human rights defenders and activists, women, lawyers, journalists, writers and bloggers that has intensified since Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman came to power in June 2017”, said Niccolò Figa-Talamanca, Secretary-General of No Peace Without Justice. “The murder dramatically demonstrates that the Saudi regime’s ambitious claims of reform are pure rhetoric and part of a smokescreen strategy used to cover the real face of an escalating and systematic campaign of repression to silence independent, dissenting or even dissonant voices by all means deemed necessary.”