There’s around 5,000 miles and a mammoth body of water separating Newcastle from San Francisco.
But fans of the Magpies will be keeping a close ear tuned into a Californian court room as the two main rival golf tours, the PGA TOUR and LIV Golf, do battle.
LIV Golf has been funded by the Public Investment Fund (PIF), who are also the main benefactors behind Newcastle United’s Saudi takeover in 2021.
That buyout was allowed after PIF managed to convince Premier League chiefs that there was enough ‘separation’ between them and the Saudi state rulers – a requisite part of passing the fit and proper person’s test for prospective owners.
However, the court battle 5,000 miles away in San Francisco might have blown the lid of some, shall we say, massaging of the truth…..
According to papers filed as part of golf’s civil war, it’s been revealed that Yasir Al-Rumayyan – who was installed as the Newcastle chairman as part of the takeover bid – DOES have state ties in his role as a ‘sitting minister’, which amongst other things guarantees him sovereign immunity.
With state rulers prohibited from owning a majority stake in an English football club, it may force the Premier League to have another look at Qatari banker Sheikh Jassim’s bid for Manchester United. He too has claimed that he has no connection to the Emir of Qatar, who has previously spoken of his interest in acquiring the Red Devils.
Ironically, it’s PIF’s own legal team that might have dropped Al-Rumayyan in the doodoo after answering the PGA TOUR’s request to name PIF as a defendant in their court battle against LIV Golf.
“They [PIF and Al-Rumayyan] are a sovereign instrumentality of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and a sitting minister of the Saudi government, and they cannot be compelled to provide testimony and documents in a US proceeding unless their conduct – not LIV’s or anyone else’s – is truly the ‘gravamen’ of the case,” the lawmen revealed.
Can the Premier League Remove Owners?
The Premier League had received ‘legally binding assurances’ that nobody involved in Newcastle United’s takeover had direct links with the Saudi state.
At the time of PIF’s acquisition of the North East outfit, Premier League chief Richard Masters claimed he would have the power to oust the Saudis as Newcastle owners if any impropriety can be proven.
Until now, there have been no major issues in that regard, although this otherwise unconnected legal contest in America could provide the necessary evidence that there is an element of Saudi state control at Newcastle, as suspected by many.
Eight of the nine PIF board members are either a minister or an ‘advisor’ to the Saudi aristocracy, with Al-Rumayyan declared as the only exception. The Saudi prime minister, the Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, is the nominated chairperson of PIF.
The question now will be whether the Premier League has the legal power – and the willingness to upset the Saudi applecart – to re-administer the fit and proper person’s test retrospectively.