The lawyer who represented Newcastle United in a battle with the Premier League over the club’s Saudi Arabian takeover expects top-flight chiefs to reject calls to re-examine the deal.
A US legal case has raised questions about the influence wielded by the Saudi state over the Tyneside football club, leading to fresh pressure on the league from human rights groups.
Newcastle have enjoyed a resurgence since PIF’s £305m takeover in late 2021, reaching their first cup final for more than 20 years last month.
But Nick De Marco KC said: “No, I don’t think the Premier League will look into this because I don’t think they need to.”
The leading barrister said that, in his view, Newcastle’s owners, Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), had done nothing to breach the terms of the settlement which finally gave the deal the green light.
In essence, the settlement only stipulated that the Saudi state would not exercise control over Newcastle, not that it would not have the ability, and, as long as there was no new evidence that its rulers were using that power, they had no case to answer.
“For that reason nothing that has happened in the LIV case, it seems to me, changes any of that,” De Marco added.
“There has been no suggestion that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has now changed its mind and is somehow exercising control over Newcastle, so I don’t believe this will lead to any change.”
The question arose last week when documents filed in a US court by lawyers for the LIV Golf circuit stated that its backer PIF should effectively be considered a foreign state.
That led to suggestions that Saudi Arabia had therefore misled the Premier League when it promised that PIF would operate Newcastle at arm’s length.
Amnesty International, which campaigned against a Saudi takeover on account of its human rights record, led calls for an investigation into the deal.
De Marco, however, said that the matter hinged on the precise wording of the settlement between PIF, Newcastle and the Premier League.
The Premier League held up the takeover for months, partly on the grounds that the deal would give Saudi Arabia the ability to exercise control over the club.
But that dispute never reached a verdict in the end, with all parties instead opting for a settlement that stipulated that Saudi Arabia would not exercise that power.
“The dispute was whether if PIF took over Newcastle the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would fall into the definition of control under Premier League rules,” De Marco told a football governance panel at law firm Mishcon de Reya this week.
“That definition includes the ability to control the club. That’s what the dispute was, and the dispute was never determined because it was settled.
“The Premier League published a statement summarising the settlement on their website. And the statement said the Premier League had received legally binding assurances that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will not control Newcastle.
“The lawyers in the room will see the difference between the dispute – i.e. do you fall into the definition of ability to control, and the league accepting assurances that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will not control [Newcastle].”