Graeme Souness has blasted Newcastle United’s Saudi Arabian owners, claiming the Gulf state should be ‘nowhere near’ the Premier League club. During an ITV1 piece on sportswashing during the 2022 Qatar World Cup, Souness made his feelings about the Public Investment Fund abundantly clear.
Ahead of Argentina vs Saudi Arabia at the 80,000-capacity Lusail Stadium, Laura Woods, Roy Keane and Joe Cole joined Souness in addressing sportswashing concerns surrounding Qatar’s successful World Cup bid. And on the topic of Argentina’s opponents, the latter slammed the state’s widely-heralded ownership of Newcastle.
Souness said: “Football is such a vehicle for good and bad. You know, the sportswashing that’s going on in our own country. Newcastle… there’s no way the Saudis should have Newcastle United. They shouldn’t be anywhere near it.
“But it’s not an ideal world that we’re operating in. The Saudis have invested in our country for decades. Football now has such a profile that the Saudis see, the people of Abu Dhabi see it, and the Americans see it. It’s a chance to improve whatever brand they’re involved in.”
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A Saudi-backed consortium brought Mike Ashley’s 14-year spell as Newcastle owner to an end in October 2021, completing a £305million takeover celebrated among supporters. The Premier League approved the sale after receiving ‘legally binding assurances’ that the state wouldn’t control the club.
But the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, was listed as chair of the PIF, the fund providing 80 per cent of funds for the takeover and supposedly separate from the state. Despite concerns, the deal passed the Premier League owners’ and directors’ test, and Newcastle have profited from a vast influx of cash across the opening year.
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