Apr 23, 2020

The Newcastle United Football Club is up for impending purchase by a consortium of buyers which includes Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF).

In response to this news, the Human Rights Foundation has sent a letter to Premier League chief executive Richard Masters to inform him of the disastrous human rights situation in Saudi Arabia. This letter clarifies the role that Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and his regime have played in violating the rights of millions of Saudis, and requests that the Premier League consider its opportunity to positively influence human rights policy in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy whose de facto dictator, MBS, brutally silences anyone who dares to criticize his policies or call for reform. Since coming to power in June 2017, MBS has spearheaded a brutal crackdown on human rights, using detention, legal measures, and the death penalty, with the Kingdom’s archaic and barbaric methods of execution such as decapitation, crucifixion, and stoning to death. In 2019, more than 130 people were executed, six of whom were minors at the time of their arrest. Just last month, 298 government officials were detained as part of a renewed crackdown by MBS to consolidate power and purge any dissenting voices.

The Saudi regime is committing these abuses under the guise of transforming the country through its Vision 2030 plan. This has gone hand-in-hand with the Saudi regime waging a major public relations campaign abroad to whitewash its crimes. To achieve this, the regime invests billions of dollars in Western societies to propel an image of modernism and prosperity. A major component of this effort involves the funding of sporting and entertainment industries, including film and music festivals, and business summits. The Premier League has tremendous media influence, which MBS hopes to manipulate and profit from, for his own benefit and to the detriment of the Saudi people. 

This deal would severely undermine the Premier League’s support of human rights, and the League will become a tool of the repressive Saudi regime’s campaign to detract attention away from the country’s dire human rights situation through “sportswashing.” 

HRF implores the Premier League to urgently consider cancelling this deal, recognize its grave consequences, and uphold the principle that sport is not merely a business but also an influential medium that should not be hijacked by a brutal dictatorship.

Read the letter in full here.


The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.