‘It is not fair for Abramovich to have a football club taken away’ — Staveley – The Athletic

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By Luke Brown
3 March 2022Updated 6:19 PM GMT

Newcastle United co-owner Amanda Staveley has said that it is not “particularly fair” that Roman Abramovich may have to sell Chelsea amid Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

Staveley also claimed there is “absolutely not” any prospect of Saudi Arabia committing acts that could see the country hit with similar sanctions to those imposed on Russia.

Staveley’s PCP Capital Partners firm led a Saudi Arabian-backed takeover of Newcastle for £305 million in October 2021.

Abramovich, a Russian billionaire, has meanwhile owned Chelsea since 2003. But on Wednesday, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Abramovich said he had made the “incredibly difficult decision” to sell the club.

Staveley, however, said that it was “sad” Abramovich may have decided to sell the club after the threat of sanctions was raised in parliament, following Russia’s invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.

“We are always going to have geopolitical issues,” she said at The Financial Times’ Business of Football Summit in London.

“This world is never going to not have problems. And I know it's really hard, and I'm really sad today that somebody is going to have a football club taken away because of a relationship they may have with someone. I don't think that's particularly fair, actually, to be honest.”

Abramovich has always vehemently denied being close to Russian president Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin or having done anything which could merit him being punished. Boris Johnson was meanwhile forced to correct the parliamentary record last week after wrongly telling MPs that Abramovich was already subject to sanctions.

Last week, however, Labour MP Chris Bryant used parliamentary privilege to say he had obtained documents from 2019 which link Abramovich to illicit finance and “malign activity”.

“I have got hold of a leaked document from 2019 from the Home Office which says in relation to Mr Abramovich: ‘As part of Her Majesty’s Government’s (HMG) Russia strategy aimed at targeting illicit finance and malign activity, Abramovich remains of interest to HMG due to his links to the Russian state and his public association with corrupt activity and practices'," he said.

Staveley added that there was “absolutely not” any prospect of Saudi Arabia finding themselves in a similar situation to Russia.

When asked whether Newcastle United could find themselves in a similar position to Chelsea, Staveley said: “Absolutely not.

“I was so confident about the relationship. It’s not Saudi Arabia, it’s the Public Investment Fund. I knew there was only one investor for Newcastle — main investor — and I knew who it was and that there would never be any instance where this would be the wrong relationship for us and for the fans.

“I’m looking forward to seeing that relationship flourish and grow.”

Newcastle are not technically owned by Saudi Arabia but by the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund — which is essentially a state savings account for the Saudi Arabian government.

PIF is chaired by the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) and also features six Saudi government ministers on its board, in addition to a royal court advisor and its governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan, who chairs Newcastle and the state-owned oil company Saudi Aramco.

Saudi Arabia has never been hit by financial sanctions similar to those imposed on Russia this month. But the Joe Biden administration did announce sanctions and visa bans targeting Saudi Arabian citizens over the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. MBS, who denies personally ordering Khashoggi’s murder, has not been sanctioned, however.

Saudi Arabia has also been leading a military intervention in Yemen since 2015.

The Yemeni Civil War, which started in 2014, is between the government and Iran-backed Houthi rebels. It is seen as a proxy war between Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia and eight other Arab states — backed by the US, UK and France.

Human Rights Watch has documented “at least 90 apparently unlawful Saudi-led coalition airstrikes” in Yemen, while in September 2021 a United Nations expert panel found that all parties to the conflict may have committed war crimes.

Saudi Arabia has meanwhile faced international criticism for its human rights record and treatment of dissidents and human rights activists. LGBT rights are not recognised by the government of Saudi Arabia.

(Photo: Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images)
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