Amnesty say new 'Saudi-themed' Newcastle shirt is PR for Mohammed bin Salman
Newcastle officially released their new white and green shirt on Tuesday
Newcastle United players and fans who wear the club's new third shirt will be taking part in sportswashing and PR for Saudi ruler Mohammed bin Salman and his government, Amnesty International has said.
The white and green shirt, which bears a close resemblance to the Saudi Arabian national team's home jersey, was officially released on Tuesday morning after a series of leaked images appeared online in recent weeks.
It comes as Eddie Howe and his Newcastle squad prepare for the 2022/23 season - the club's first full campaign under the majority ownership of the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF).
The PIF took charge of Newcastle from Mike Ashley last October after the Premier League had been given assurances the club would not be controlled by the Saudi state. Amnesty remain unconvinced that this is the case and have again described the takeover as an attempt to cleanse Saudi's image.
Amnesty on sportswashing and PR
"Saudi Arabia's purchase of Newcastle United was always a blatant attempt to sportswash its heavily-tarnished international image and we should probably expect further evidence of this in future product lines and redesigns at the club," said Felix Jakens, Amnesty International UK’s head of priority campaigns.
"Crude though it is, sport is clearly being used in a wider Saudi project to try to refocus attention away from the horrendous murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the dozens of executions it carries out every year, the jailing of human rights defenders and political opponents, and its bloody record in Yemen.
"The players and fans who wear this Saudi-themed shirt may well do so with genuine pride in their club’s rich history, but they should also recognise that the kit represents sportswashing and PR for Mohammed bin Salman and his government.
"We’ve long called on Eddie Howe and all at the club to speak out about human rights violations in Saudi Arabia. We’d like them to show some solidarity with those languishing behind bars in Saudi Arabia and with people like Hatice Cengiz, Jamal Khashoggi’s fiancée.”
Awaiting legally binding assurances that this has not been inspired by the Saudi national team shirt and that this is just a big coincidence pic.twitter.com/zb5YvC2vOV
— FootballJOE (@FootballJOE) June 28, 2022
Newcastle takeover followed by Saudi Tourism Messi deal
Saudi Arabia's eagerness to align itself with football was also highlighted by a recent commercial partnership between Lionel Messi and Visit Saudi - a state backed tourism campaign.
Messi has received criticism for agreeing to the deal, with Lina al-Hathloul, the sister of prominent women's rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul, telling JOE last month that it "empowers a repressive regime".
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