To say goodbye, Gary Hoffman was quoted using the customary phrases. "It has been a privilege to lead the Premier League through the past two seasons," said the board of England's elite football league To enable leadership to steer the league through its next exciting phase. ”He will be leaving his post at the end of January 2022. The right time to step aside: It sounds like Hoffman made the decision of his own free will. In truth, however, the 20 clubs in the Premier League - the shareholders of the company - have largely expressed their distrust of the 61-year-old. Arbitrary-peaceful is different.

The background to this is the controversial takeover of Newcastle United by a consortium led by the entrepreneur Amanda Staveley, the real estate investors Reuben Brothers and the Saudi Arabian state fund PIF, which is backed by Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman. The PIF provides 80 percent of the finances. The Premier League said it had legally binding commitments that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would not gain operational control of the club. However, critics do not consider this to be particularly credible. For them, Hoffman is the main culprit in the matter because he is said to have waved the deal through in the end.

The whole thing is not a triviality. The accusation is “sportswashing”: Saudi Arabia wants to create a clean image for itself through the association with the globally marketed glittering world of the Premier League. According to Human Rights Watch, Bin Salman's regime is suppressing the population, imprisoning political opponents and activists for the rights of women and homosexuals without charge, and torture and execution are part of the exercise of power. Western intelligence agencies such as the CIA accuse bin Salman of commissioning the brutal murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. The prince denies that.

It is questionable whether the club officials were primarily concerned when they withdrew Hoffman's trust. Because the takeover immediately makes Newcastle one of the richest clubs in the world; Staveley promises long-term investments and that the club will regularly compete for the big trophies in the future - even if it is currently on the penultimate place in the table. For example, expensive acquisitions of stars could create a new competitor for the established top clubs, and the other clubs are likely to feel disadvantaged by Newcastle's sudden wealth.

A rule that was hastily brought into being in the course of the takeover shows that it is also - or above all - about money. This will initially prevent companies from appearing as new sponsors who are directly connected to the owner or are close to him until the end of November. It is a way of pumping massive amounts of money into the club, for example through overly funded deals. Eighteen clubs voted for the rule, Newcastle voted against and Manchester City abstained.

The master belongs to the Abu Dhabi United Group, which in turn is headed by Sheikh Mansour.

The main sponsor since shortly after the takeover in 2008 has been Etihad Airways, the airline of the United Arab Emirates.

It is considered likely that the necessary majority of 14 of the 20 clubs will vote in favor of a similar continuation after the end of the temporary sponsorship regime.

Hoffman is the most influential man in the Premier League alongside CEO Richard Masters.

The two succeeded Richard Scudamore, who filled both roles until his resignation.

The league thanked Hoffman for his work: "He led the league during the most difficult time in its history and leaves it in stronger shape than ever." The search for a successor is ongoing.