A consortium including Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund has withdrawn its bid from purchasing Newcastle United off of retail entrepreneur Mike Ashley. In a statement, the group -- also featuring the PCP Capital Partners and Reuben brothers -- cited a lack of clarity with regards to the start of the next Premier League season and an expired agreement.
"Ultimately, during the unforeseeably prolonged process, the commercial agreement between the Investment Group and the club's owners expired and our investment thesis could not be sustained, particularly with no clarity as to the circumstances under which the next season will start and the new norms that will arise for matches, training and other activities," the group said in a statement, per ESPN.
The "prolonged process" in question is the league spending four months considering whether to approve a 300 million pound takeover of the club. Papers regarding the takeover were submitted in April. At that same time, human rights groups were raising concerns of this purchase, saying this was just Saudi Arabia trying to hide their maligned human rights record.
Amnesty International writes to the Chief Executive of the football Premier League raising concerns about the purchase of Newcastle Utd by a consortium including Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), and warning him the league is at risk of becoming “a patsy” pic.twitter.com/XGWhPcZbcs— Dan Roan (@danroan) April 21, 2020
Peter Frankental, Amnesty International UK's Economics Affairs Program Director, told Sky Sports, "This deal was always a blatant attempt by the government of Saudi Arabia to try to sportswash its abysmal human rights record by buying into the passion, prestige and pride of Tyneside football.
"The fact that this sportswashing bid has failed will be seen by human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia as a sign that their suffering has not been entirely overlooked."
Also of concern was the World Trade Organization ruling that Saudi Arabia had not done enough to prevent the piracy of sports coverage, such as Premier League games. The country had blocked moves to shut down the piracy because it was stealing from Qatar-owned beIn Sports network, a country which Saudi Arabia is in conflict with on an economic and diplomatic front.
As a result, ownership of Newcastle remains with Mike Ashley, who has faced constant protests and opposition from supporters of his own club. Those same supporters are also upset at this outcome as, to them, this was a way to return to glory. The resulting influx of cash would lead to spending sprees during transfer windows which have only been seen by clubs like Manchester City and Chelsea.
For context, as Sky Sports' Kaveh Solhekol notes, "When you look at the Saudis' wealth, they would have been 15 times richer than Man City, for example. The Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is worth 30 times more than [Chelsea owner] Roman Abramovich."
Naturally, then, Newcastle supporters have expressed frustration with the criticism that the takeover was receiving.
"The supporters of Newcastle United have been treated with contempt by large parts of the football media and the Premier League during this failed takeover process," the NUFC Supporters Trust told Sky Sports. "It's been made clear that we are the least important people in a decision which affects us the most. We need answers."