London: A Saudi-led consortium completed its takeover of Premier League club Newcastle United on Thursday despite warnings from Amnesty International that the deal represented “sportswashing” of the Gulf kingdom’s human rights record.
The English top flight said it had settled legal disputes that had initially stalled the £300 million ($408 million) takeover and received “legally binding assurances” that the Saudi Arabian government would not control the club.
“The Premier League, Newcastle United Football Club and St James Holdings Limited have today settled the dispute over the takeover of the club by the consortium of PIF, PCP Capital Partners and RB Sports & Media,” the Premier League said in a statement.
“Following the completion of the Premier League’s owners’ and directors’ Test, the club has been sold to the consortium with immediate effect.”
Public Investment Fund (PIF) governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan 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.”
Hundreds of success-starved fans swarmed to Newcastle’s St James’ Park ground, celebrating by letting off flares as the reign of the unpopular Mike Ashley came to an end.
Former Newcastle and England striker Alan Shearer tweeted “Yesssssssss. We can dare to hope again” while another former forward, Michael Owen, said it could be a “game-changer” for the club.
The Newcastle United Supporters Trust tweeted a letter to the new owners saying it looked forward to working with them” to rejuvenate one of the greatest football clubs in England”.
Newcastle, currently managed by former Manchester United defender Steve Bruce, are without a win in their opening seven games of the Premier League season and sit second-bottom of the table.
The transformation of Manchester City into serial winners since a 2008 takeover from Sheikh Mansour, a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family, is the template for the club to follow.