Skip to content

Labor has challenged the government to “clean up” its involvement in Saudi Arabia’s takeover of Newcastle United.

Ministers should be honest about the extent of any Premier League lobbying and correct the record in Parliament if they have not told the truth before, the opposition has said.

The news follows revelations in the Guardian that investment minister Lord Gerry Grimstone made contact with the Premier League during the takeover process. This was contrary to Boris Johnson’s public claims that the government had had no involvement.

“Our football clubs are at the heart of communities,” said Shadow Sports Minister Jeff Smith. “They should not be exploited by ministers to pursue foreign policy goals.

“The Government must urgently clarify the extent of their lobbying of the Premier League and correct the record if they were spouting canards in the House of Commons.”

Part of Lord Grimstone’s mandate is to secure foreign investment for the UK and it is understood by the Guardian that he approached then Premier League chairman Gary Hoffman about taking control. In addition, he went so far as to offer to negotiate a solution between the league and the Saudi authorities regarding the piracy issues that threatened any deal.

An initial bid for Newcastle from the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) was blocked in 2020 over fears the Saudi state could take direct control of the club. In 2021, after a resolution on the hacking of Premier League matches in the Gulf region, a takeover was approved, with the league saying it had received legally binding guarantees that the Saudi state would not be in charge. . Hoffman told a meeting of 20 Premier League clubs that the government had pressured the league to complete the takeover, but denied the pressure had been successful.

A spokesperson for the Department for International Trade (DIT) confirmed that Grimstone had spoken to Hoffman “as part of the countless conversations he has in his ministerial role”, and that it was his role “among other things, to to keep abreast of major investments potentially coming into the UK’ But Grimstone had ‘never attempted to influence Mr Hoffman and the Premier League to approve the takeover of Newcastle’, the gatekeeper said -word.

In April 2021, the Prime Minister denied any government involvement in the process. Responding in parliament to a question from Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah, Johnson said: “The government has not been involved at any time in the takeover talks over the sale of Newcastle.”

This year the government announced plans to create an independent regulator for English football, with one of its roles being to administer a reformed test for owners and directors. Although this test is expected to include a new component designed to assess the integrity of a potential owner, the government has said the scope of such a test would be limited.

“While it is important for the regulator to undertake enhanced due diligence,” he said, “there is a danger that the regulator could be drawn into geopolitical issues. involved in government foreign policy issues.

Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.