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Law

Saudi Arabia Filing in LIV Golf Case Causes Premier League Outcry

  • Premier League could take another look at Saudi Arabia's ties to Newcastle deal.
  • Scrutiny comes amid legal arguments in LIV Golf-PGA Tour antitrust case.
Cameron Smith Celebrates LIV Golf tournament win with Greg Norman
Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

Saudi Arabia’s claim of sovereign immunity on behalf of its Public Investment Fund as part of the LIV Golf-PGA Tour civil antitrust case this week has irked another sports league across the pond. 

In an amicus brief filed this week, Saudi Arabia claimed a judge’s order that PIF is subject to discovery in the case was “unprecedented,” and Yasir Al-Rumayyan shouldn’t be allowed to be deposed since he “holds the rank of a Minister in Saudi Arabia’s government.” 

The Guardian reported Thursday that claims that Al-Rumayyan is beyond the reach of the U.S. court system were met with “anger” by Premier League clubs since Al-Rumayyan is the chairman of Newcastle United. 

The newspaper also reported that the disclosure in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California could lead the Premier League to reexamine PIF’s promise that Saudi Arabia would have no control over Newcastle when the fund took over control of the team in 2021. 

“The Premier League will surely need to re-examine the assurances made about the non-involvement of the Saudi authorities in the Newcastle deal, not least as there’s still a Qatari bid for Manchester United currently on the table,” said Peter Frankental, Amnesty International UK economic affairs director, per the BBC.

Magistrate Judge Susan van Keulen ruled last month that PIF and Al-Rumayyan were subject to discovery requests by PGA Tour lawyers. In the order, van Keulen wrote that PIF and Al-Rumayyan could not claim a sovereign immunity exception because their roles in LIV went beyond merely funding the golf league. 

Attorneys for LIV Golf and PIF asked U.S. District Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman to review that decision earlier this week. If Freeman upholds van Keulen’s order, the issue could be appealed to the 9th Circuit, delaying the trial scheduled to begin in January. 

PIF is worth more than $600 billion, one of the most well-capitalized sovereign funds in the world. Since it’s an arm of the Saudi government, it is effectively controlled by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. 

“It was always stretching credulity to breaking point to imagine that the Saudi state wasn’t directing the buyout of Newcastle with the ultimate aim of using the club as a component in its wider sportswashing efforts,” Frankental said.

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