Premier League offers no comment on whether Newcastle face investigation

The chief executive of the Premier League has told MPs he cannot comment on whether Newcastle’s links with Saudi Arabia are being reinvestigated in light of a recent US court case.

Newcastle’s takeover saga ended in 2021 after the Saudi Public Investment Fund took a majority stake, having provided “legally binding assurances” to the Premier League there would be no state involvement in the running of the club.

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Richard Masters – speaking on Tuesday at a digital, culture, media and sport select committee hearing – confirmed he was aware of a LIV Golf Series legal case against the PGA Tour, during which the Saudis have argued that the PIF and Newcastle’s chairman, Yasir al-Rumayyan, should be protected from giving evidence due to sovereign immunity laws.

LIV, which is backed by the Saudi government, has stated that Rumayyan is “a sitting member of the Saudi government” and the PIF is “a sovereign instrumentality of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” to support its case. In doing so, it has raised fresh questions about the level of separation between the PIF and Newcastle.

Masters said he was aware of the case but refused to be drawn on its implications for Newcastle. “I’m afraid I can’t really comment on it. Even to the point of saying it is the Premier League investigating it I can’t really comment.

“Obviously we are completely aware and you are correct about the general nature of the undertakings we received at the point of takeover, but I can’t really go into it.

“The only time when the Premier League comments publicly on regulatory issues is when it’s charged and at the end of the process when an independent panel decides if any rule breaches have taken place.”

The select committee also heard from Tracey Crouch MP, who said she had found it “disappointing and surprising” that the Premier League had tried to kick her fan-led review “into the long grass”.

Masters insisted the Premier League had engaged with the review and had scheduled additional meetings last summer to work through the issues despite not being entirely happy with it. “There is a difference between trying to frustrate a process and trying to kill it off – and trying to engage with it properly and making sure that your legitimate concerns are heard and addressed,” he said. “And that’s what we’ve been trying to do.”

Asked by Julie Elliott MP about whether the Premier League would categorically deny it had tried to kick the review into the long grass, Masters said: “Well, we haven’t been very successful if we’ve been trying to do it. Here we are talking about it.”