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Newcastle United fans’ hatred of Ashley blinds them

Even if the club were to be sold, fans should outright reject the Saudis sportswashing tactics.

BRITAIN-COURT-ASHLEY Photo credit should read CHRIS J RATCLIFFE/AFP via Getty Images

Newcastle United is rumored to be close to a sale. Again. It’s not the first time we’ve been here, and to be honest, I’m not very optimistic about the sale myself. However, even if we were close to witnessing Mike Ashley finally sell the Tyneside outfit, I certainly would not want the Saudi Arabian royal family anywhere near my beloved club. And you should reject it, too.

Coming Home Newcastle has been nearly dead silent on these rumors because we’ve covered it before. It all sounds the same. But fans welcoming the Saudis should sound off alarm bells.

Newcastle United v Liverpool - Premier League - St James’ Park
Amanda Staveley is believed to be involved in the discussions.
Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images

Sure, we want rid of Mike Ashley. But at what cost? How could we enjoy football knowing that human rights abusers are the ones watching from the ownership stand? They kill journalists, and lock up political prisoners. They have no respect for the rule of international law, and they attempt to hide these infractions behind the curtain of athletics. It’s a farce, and you should be ashamed of welcoming such ownership.

A lot of people would say that anyone is better than Mike Ashley, but how true is that? Mike Ashley with all his faults is not a murderer. And while he has certainly taken advantage of the club for financial gain and easy advertising is that not precisely what the Saudis are planning to do? They plan to abuse the Newcastle United name to distract the world from their problems at home. Namely their lack of basic human civil rights, freedom of the press, and political prisoners. Newcastle would be a vehicle for their investment abroad and make the Saudi Arabian family look good to most who won’t pay attention to the myriad of abuses they commit.

The majority of the world is politically illiterate, and Newcastle United fans just want a club that they can watch and enjoy. In the eyes of most, the Saudis are offering exactly that. There is potential for a product to be put on the pitch that will dazzle, win trophies, and even contribute to the development of one of England’s most important industrial cities. It will drive investment not only in St. James Park, but in the communities surrounding it. And on the surface it sounds oh so tempting. Who does not love the idea of their football club being a vehicle for positive change in their community?

It’s vulture philanthropy. And it’s dangerous. Just because you invest in a community does not wipe your hands clean of the blood on your hands from decades of political oppression. Sounds a lot like what Dubai has done around the world.

My call to you as fans of Newcastle United is to open your eyes to the world around you. Do you want the very thing you love to become a facade for a regime guilty of international murder and civil rights offenses? And as fans you should be ashamed for even considering that Saudi ownership of Newcastle United is good. “Anyone is better than Mike Ashley” showcases your very ignorance and you should be ashamed.

Are we going to ignore the calls from NGOs that this is blatant sportwashing (via Forbes, the Guardian)? Or is that you simply don’t care? That your precious football club is more important than the lives lost, homes destroyed, and people displaced because of a repressive regime that refuses to take responsibility for its actions? The Saudis are responsible for the immiseration of millions of its own people. While they promise to build up the community here, lest we forget that they destroy their own communities at home.

SAUDI-RUSSIA-DIPLOMACY
Is this really the man you want as your savior?
Photo by ALEXEY NIKOLSKY/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images

Allow me to direct you to the Muslim Observer, blasting Saudi Arabia over what they call “blatant human rights offenses”. These include public beheadings, human trafficking and sex slavery. Do you want that kind of money flowing through your football club? I don’t think so.

Maybe we can take a look at Amnesty International’s report for 2017/2018 where they stated, “The authorities escalated their repression of all forms of dissent, including peaceful expression in support of human rights, both online and offline”.

I refer you to Human Rights Watch, where they wrote about in their 2020 report that women were put on trial simply for sharing information on women’s rights with international NGOs such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, “deeming such contacts a criminal offense”.

I could go on, or we could finally realize that this is not the owner we want nor need. It’s time we have an honest conversation about what sport is and what sport isn’t. It shouldn’t be a vehicle to cover up criminal activity abroad, and we need to look around and realize this is being done all throughout the world, not just Newcastle.