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Newcastle sold to Saudi Arabia, Mike Ashley leaves, news, latest, controversy

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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 ($559 million AUD) takeover and received “legally binding assurances” that the Saudi Arabian government would not control the club.

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“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.

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– Unpopular Ashley –

The consortium featuring the Saudi Public Investment Fund, PCP Capital Partners and billionaire brothers David and Simon Reuben struck a deal to buy the club from Ashley in April 2020.

However, the controversial takeover bid hit the rocks after an outcry from Qatar-based beIN Sports, a major television rights holder of the Premier League.

The broadcaster, which extended its rights to the English top flight for the Middle East and North African region earlier this year, was banned by Saudi Arabia in 2017 at the start of a diplomatic and transport blockade of Qatar, which ended in January.

Tensions between the states have eased significantly this year and Saudi’s ban on beIN is set to be lifted, with a source briefed on the matter saying there was a “commitment for it to happen”.

Riyadh is also seeking to settle Qatar’s $1 billion arbitration claim over pirate broadcasts to Saudi audiences by the BeoutQ network.

The PIF, chaired by Prince Mohammed bin Salman, widely known as MBS, is reportedly taking an 80 per cent stake under the deal.

The takeover could transform the Magpies’ fortunes — despite regular attendances of 50,000, Newcastle have not won a major trophy since 1969.

Ashley has been deeply disliked in his 14 years in charge, during which time the club have twice been relegated from the Premier League before bouncing back.

Despite the celebrations in Newcastle, Amnesty has warned the deal is part of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to “sportswash” its human rights record.

“Ever since this deal was first talked about, Amnesty have said it represents a very clear attempt by the Saudi authorities to sportswash their appalling human rights record using the glamour of the Premier League,” Amnesty’s head of campaigns in the UK, Felix Jakens, told AFP.

Saudi Arabia faced international condemnation following the brutal murder of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate three years ago.

In February, US intelligence released a report that accused MBS of approving the murder, an assessment strongly rejected by the Saudis.

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Arsenal can finally end Houssem Aouar saga if Liverpool transfer swoop proves a failure

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Arsenal are reportedly keen on signing Alex Oxlade Chamberlain in the January transfer window but could finally land Houssem Aouar as an alternative

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Man Utd board concerned about four Ole Gunnar Solskjaer players ahead of Leicester clash

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Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer will be looking to mastermind a victory over Leicester in Saturday’s Premier League clash.

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Australia vs Japan, Socceroos, World Cup qualifier, live, results, scores, kick-off, video, highlights

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Welcome to live coverage of the Socceroos’ World Cup qualifier against Japan. Follow all the live action in our blog blow!

Kick-off: 9:14pm AEDT.

Graham Arnold’s Socceroos are within touching distance of qualifying for their fifth straight World Cup campaign.

A win against the Blue Samurai will all but seal qualification for Qatar 2022.

While Japan have lost two of their past three matches, the Blue Samurai have proved a thorn in the Socceroos’ hearts for more than a decade.

Although Australia will head to Tokyo full of confidence after beating the nation that defeated Japan back on matchday one, Arnold’s men have lost their seven matches against the nation, a run that stretches back to 2009.

But Arnold attempted to heap the pressure back on his opponents.

“The Japanese no doubt have all the pressure on them because they have only won one game out of three,” he said.

“Every time we step out on the field we expect to win the game. We will do that again on Tuesday.”

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Arnold, however, said the Socceroos needed to respect their opponents but make sure they build on their own winning momentum, having won 11 straight.

“I think the Japanese DNA is that they have always had very technical and skilful players,” he said.

“Japan have many players playing in top leagues around the world, in Europe, and plenty of players that have a lot of qualities to really hurt opposition teams. We need to respect that, of course.

“We will be looking to take advantage of the form that we have, the momentum we have, and who we are as a team at the moment to really come here and put Japan under pressure. We are confident that we can get the win.”

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Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu, who job is squarely on the line, remained confident his side can get back on track.

“We got tired and lost our rhythm against Saudi Arabia, that’s when they capitalised and scored,” he said. “If we don’t give up, I believe we can still win a ticket to the World Cup.”

Tuesday’s night clash against Japan will be Arnold’s 19th match from 22 games in charge since taking over Dutchman Bert van Marwijk in 2018 to have been played on foreign soil.

WHAT’S NEXT?

To qualify for a fifth consecutive World Cup, Australia must finish either first or second in Group B, which includes ten matches to be played from September 2021 to March 2022, to qualify directly.

A third-place finish would send the Socceroos to a play-off against the third-place team from Group A, followed by an intercontinental play-off

WORLD RANKING

Australia: 32

Japan: 26

DATE: Tuesday, 12 October 2021

VENUE: Saitama Stadium, Saitama, Japan

KICK-OFF: 7.14pm local (9.14pm AEDT)

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