The English Premier League has been asked by human rights activists and one of its major broadcast partners to consider blocking Saudi Arabia's attempt to buy Newcastle United.
Amnesty International wrote to league chief executive Richard Masters to say the takeover could be exploited by Saudi Arabia to cover up "deeply immoral" breaches of international law, citing human rights violations and the role of the crown prince leading the sovereign wealth fund.
Qatar-based broadcaster beIN Sports said the kingdom should be held to account for a Saudi-backed pirate network stealing live broadcasts of games.
Yousef Al-Obaidly, the beIN Media Group CEO, warned of the "danger of allowing the acquisition ... given the country's past and continuing illegal actions and their direct impact upon the commercial interests of the Premier League."
The intervention of a broadcast partner which has helped the league become the world's richest soccer competition comes amid growing financial pressures on clubs caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
There have been no games played in six weeks. Masters has said the crisis could cost the league more than STG1 billion pounds ($A2 billion) with broadcasting contracts in danger of not being fulfilled.
While the league grapples with an unprecedented shutdown it is having to examine whether to grant Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund clearance to buy Newcastle from retail entrepreneur Mike Ashley.
The PIF is planning to be the 80 per cent majority partner in a STG300 million-pound ($A600 million) takeover alongside wealthy British-based Reuben brothers and financier Amanda Staveley.
PIF is overseen by the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who Amnesty says has been involved in a "sweeping crackdown on human rights."
The Premier League does not have specific human rights standards set out in regulations used to assess the suitability of new owners.
"So long as these questions remain unaddressed, the Premier League is putting itself at risk of becoming a patsy of those who want to use the glamour and prestige of Premier League football to cover up actions that are deeply immoral, in breach of international law and at odds with the values of the Premier League and the global footballing community," Amnesty International's UK director Kate Allen wrote to Masters.
Amnesty raised concerns with Masters about the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul as questions linger over the crown prince's culpability.
The Premier League can block new owners if "in the reasonable opinion of the board" it can be determined they "engaged in conduct outside the United Kingdom" that would have resulted in a conviction in Britain had it taken place within the country.
In September, the Premier League was among soccer organisations that concluded Saudi Arabia-backed Arabsat was "without question" behind the bootlegging of games, with the beOutQ logo placed over beIN Sports branding on the telecasts produced out of Qatar.
Al-Obaidly told Masters as a "huge investor in the Premier League, we urge you to consider carefully all the implications" of allowing the takeover of Newcastle.
PIF's London-based media advisers have declined comment on the takeover.
Australian Associated Press