Hatice Cengiz has called on the Premier League to block the takeover
Newcastle United fans have been urged to “unite to protect” the club from a takeover by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF).
The message came in an open letter from Hatice Cengiz, who is the fiancee of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Western intelligence agencies believe that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who heads the PIF, ordered Khashoggi’s murder in 2018 – which he denies.
“You as the loyal fans do have a big say in this,” wrote Cengiz.
PIF looks set to finance 80% of a £300m takeover of Premier League side Newcastle, who have been owned by Mike Ashley since 2007.
“My plea to you [the fans] is to think whether accepting Mohammed bin Salman’s offer is really the right way out of the despair for your club and city,” said Cengiz in the letter.
“I implore you all to unite to protect your beloved club and city from the Crown Prince and those around him.
“They are making this move not to help you and not with your best interests in mind, but solely to serve themselves.
“Their hearts will not genuinely be in the club that means everything to you.
“I urge you to send this message loud and clear to the Premier League, to your club’s management, to your city’s leaders, and to the world.”
She added: “We should not let the beautiful game of football be shamed by those who are not passionate for it, and who only seek to use it to hide their shocking deeds.”
Newcastle United sat 13th in the Premier League when the season was suspended in March
Khashoggi – a dissident Saudi columnist living in self-exile in the United States – had gone to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October 2018, seeking papers to marry Cengiz.
Investigators believe that as she waited outside, the 59-year-old was murdered and then dismembered. His remains have never been found.
UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard said there was credible evidence that Crown Prince Mohammed and other high-level Saudi officials were individually liable.
A court in Saudi Arabia last year sentenced five people to death and jailed three others over his murder, while Turkey has separately charged 20 suspects over the murder.
What do we know about the takeover?
Ashley put the club up for sale in 2017 and the proposed Saudi takeover has already caused much controversy.
The Saudi government has been accused of facilitating the theft of Premier League commercial rights, while Amnesty International has criticised the potential deal because of the country’s dire human rights record.
The country has also been accused of “sportswashing”, a term used to describe countries that try to improve their international reputation by investing in major teams or hosting big sporting events.
But these accusations have been rebuffed by the Saudi government, which claims it wants to get more of its people engaged in sport.
Complaints to the Premier League
Cengiz has also written to the Premier League to say the takeover should be blocked.
In a reply to her letter from chief executive Richard Masters, seen by BBC Sport, he says the Premier League is following “due processes required by UK law and by the Premier League’s own rules”, which “go beyond those required by UK company law” and are “applied with rigour”.
But he says he “appreciates the strength of feeling” from her and reiterated his condolences.
Last month, the Premier League was urged by one of its largest overseas broadcast partners to “fully interrogate” Newcastle United’s proposed £300m takeover.
The chief executive of the Qatar-based TV giant beIN Sports, Yousef al-Obaidly, has written to the chairs of top-flight clubs about the deal.
In the letter, Al-Obaidly accused the Saudi Arabian government of the “facilitation of the near three-year theft of the Premier League’s commercial rights – and in turn your club’s commercial revenues – through its backing of the huge-scale beoutQ pirate service”.