Search icon


15th Jun 2023

Newcastle face fresh sportswashing allegations over shirt sponsor

Callum Boyle


The new deal is reportedly worth £25m a year

Amnesty International have hit out at Newcastle United’s latest sponsorship deal, which is rumoured to be worth £25m a year.

Saudi Arabian events company Sela will be the new name on the front of the Magpies’ shirts however Amnesty have claimed that the deal is part of an ongoing effort by the Kingdom to deflect any criticism over its appalling human rights abuse record.

Sportswashing is used by countries who have a poor human rights record to try and paint itself in a positive light and distract people from their ongoing atrocities.

Sela are part of the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) – who also have an 80 per cent majority stake in Newcastle – who are responsible for organising some of the biggest events in Saudi Arabia.

Peter Frankental, Amnesty International UK’s Economic Affairs Director, told The Mirror: “Newcastle’s recent success on the football field has been part and parcel of an enormous sports-based PR effort from the Saudi authorities, yet away from the glamour of the Premier League there’s been mounting repression in Saudi Arabia.

“We’ve seen a disturbing human rights crackdown under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, with government critics and human rights activists arrested, a spate of unfair trials, and with the death penalty widely used, including as a tool of political repression.

“Last year alone, the Saudi authorities executed 196 people, the highest number for at least 30 years, and the Leeds University PhD student Salma al-Shehab was given a long jail sentence for tweeting her support for Saudi women’s rights activists.

“Next season, when players are pulling on Sela-branded Newcastle football shirts, they should also be ready to field questions about sportswashing and the human rights abuses the Saudi authorities are trying to airbrush out of the picture.

“Saudi Arabia’s sportswashing at Newcastle was probably always going to include a shirt sponsorship deal so if this goes ahead it won’t come as any surprise whatsoever.”

Last month, three men were executed in Saudi Arabia after facing opposition from the local Shia population.

Related links: