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Bin Salman fails English football ownership test: Rights group

A major human rights group has urged authorities in the English Premier League to dismiss a bid by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and allies to take over the ownership of a club, saying the controversial figure fails the very basic tests of ownership rules in the competition. 

The Fair/Square Projects’s recent plea is a second by a rights group to urge the dismissal of a bid by bin Salman and others to take over Newcastle United amid reports the ambitious Saudi prince is trying to use a recession caused by the new coronavirus pandemic to buy the dominant shares in the English club. 

The Fair/Square Projects said in its expert briefing to the Premier League that bin Salman would have two major problems passing regulations in the Owners’ and Directors’ Test. 

First, said the group, the Saudi prince’s own records on human rights would be an issue, and second, that his influence on Arab owners of two other major English clubs could violate competition rules. 

“There is a compelling body of evidence that any consortium linked to the Saudi Arabian government should be disqualified from ownership of any Premier League club,” said the letter by the Fair/Square Projects issued on Thursday. 

The group also warned football authorities in England that they should avoid prioritizing the British government’s close weapons and commerce cooperation with Saudi Arabia while deciding on bin Salman ownership bid. 

It said efforts would continue to inform the British members of the parliament on the case so that they could stop Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which is chaired by bin Salman, to own 80 percent of the shares in Newcastle United. 

The PIF has submitted all paperwork needed for taking over the ownership and the Premier League authorities should only decide whether the Saudis pass the Owners’ and Directors’ Test. 

Other groups and media organizations have raised concerns about the ownership bid, saying bin Salman’s presence in the English football would hurt its image as one of the most prestigious football leagues in the world. 

Amnesty International has urged the English football authorities to consider bin Salman’s human rights records while the Qatar-based Bein Sports, which owns parts of rights for broadcasting the Premier League outside Britain, insists a television station linked to the Saudi prince has been involved in piracy in the past. 

“Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the chairman of the Public Investment Fund, presents a demonstrable threat to the vitality, integrity and reputation of the English game and to the future of Newcastle United,” said The Fair/Square Projects in its letter. 

The human rights group mentioned in its call on English football authorities that bin Salman has been well known for his dishonest behavior as well as his designation in the US as the man responsible for the gruesome killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Various governments and organization have also lambasted bin Salman for his all-out war on Yemen, an illegal military adventure which has killed tens of thousands of people since it started five years ago