Newcastle has sold its name and reputation to a brutal government with a brutal ruler, says human rights group
The group, founded by murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, has condemned the takeover of Newcastle by a Saudi-led investment group
The takeover of Newcastle United by the Saudi-led Public Investment Fund was completed on Friday, to the delight of their long-suffering fans. Enormous crowds gathered outside of St. James' Park to celebrate the end of the Mike Ashley era, and to welcome a new one - led by a regime which executes people and punishes acts of homosexuality.
The decision of the Premier League to approve the takeover, reportedly on the proviso that there is no state involvement in the ownership, has been widely criticised by human rights groups.
One such group, Democracy for the Arab World Now (Dawn), was founded by Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist and dissident who was dismembered by agents of the Saudi state using a bone saw in October 2018. It is alleged that the chairman of PFI, crown prince Mohammed bin-Salman, handed down the order to kill him. The kingdom denies this.
“Newcastle has sold its name and reputation to a brutal government with a brutal ruler,” said Dawn’s executive director, Sarah Leah Whitson, as reported by The Guardian.
“They may as well put Bin Salman’s picture on the club’s emblem. It is now more apparent than ever that English football will sell itself to anyone, no matter how abhorrent their crimes, if they offer up enough money.
“I don’t think people really understand the corrupting influence that this deal will have. It normalises a dictator who literally goes around butchering journalists.”
A Saudi-led investment fund now owns Newcastle United.
It is an indictment of modern football that fans must now choose: walk away from the club with the same anger they aimed at Mike Ashley, or make peace with being run by a despotic regime | @waynefarry https://t.co/VXy07Bu0Xo
— FootballJOE (@FootballJOE) October 7, 2021
The takeover was also greeted with criticism by Amnesty International's UK chief executive Sacha Deshmukh, who described the deal as "as much about image management for Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and his government as it was about football".
"Instead of allowing those implicated in serious human rights violations to walk into English football simply because they have deep pockets, we’ve urged the Premier League to change their owners’ and directors’ test to address human rights issues," Deshmukh said in a statement released to the PA news agency.
"Ever since this deal was first talked about we said it represented a clear attempt by the Saudi authorities to sportswash their appalling human rights record with the glamour of top-flight football.
"Saudi ownership of St James’ Park was always as much about image management for Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and his government as it was about football.
"Under Mohammed Bin Salman, the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia remains dire – with government critics, women’s rights campaigners, Shia activists and human defenders still being harassed and jailed, often after blatantly unfair trials.
"The closed-door trial of Jamal Khashoggi’s alleged killers was widely perceived to be a part of a wider whitewash by the authorities, and Saudi Arabia is accused of a catalogue of crimes under international humanitarian law during the long conflict in Yemen.
"The phrase ‘human rights’ doesn’t even appear in the (Premier League’s) owners’ and directors’ test despite English football supposedly adhering to FIFA standards.
"We’ve sent the Premier League a suggested new human rights-compliant test and we reiterate our call on them to overhaul their standards on this.
"As with Formula One, elite boxing, golf or tennis, an association with top-tier football is a very attractive means of rebranding a country or person with a tarnished reputation. The Premier League needs to better understand the dynamic of sportswashing and tighten its ownership rules."