Plans by a consortium funded by Saudi Arabia to purchase Newcastle United come under attack
Anyone who has followed the Yemen conflict or is the least bit aware of human rights around the world, will know of Saudi Arabia’s dismal record on this front. For five years they have waged a brutal war in Yemen leaving the country a wreck and many thousands dead. We have frequently described their activities in previous blogs on this site. Their bombing of civilian targets is a disgrace as is the process of what is called ‘double tapping’ that is, circulating round after an attack on a hospital, school or wedding, and returning for a second round of bombing to kill the rescue workers. That the RAF is involved in this activity – supposedly ‘advising’ the Saudis – is a stain on the UK’s international reputation.
Their human rights record is appalling. Torture is common and confessions extracted using the process used to justify executions. Death by beheading in public displays are the norm. Women’s rights are severely restricted despite the promised reforms. Human rights activists are regularly targeted and of course there is the murder of Adnam Kashoggi who was almost certainly dismembered after his death by Saudi personnel.
Now they want to purchase Newcastle United football club via the Public Investment Fund chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the sum of £500m is mentioned in a deal.
Kate Allen, Amnesty’s Director said:
Amnesty UK director Kate Allen said in a separate letter to Masters [chief executive of the Premier League]: “So long as these questions [about Saudi Arabia’s human rights record] remain unaddressed, the Premier League is putting itself at risk of becoming a patsy of those who want to use the glamour and prestige of Premier League football to cover up actions that are deeply immoral, in breach of international law and at odds with the values of the Premier League and the global footballing community”.
She suggests that Newcastle fans to familiarise themselves with the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia before the deal goes ahead. For many fans, their chief desire is to see a new owner to replace Mike Ashley, the current one.
Saudi Arabia has been trying, unsuccessfully so far, to improve its image and using ‘sports wash’ is part of that plan. The sums of money are huge and it appears that sports people are unconcerned at the source of the money or how tainted it is before accepting and cashing in the cheques.
The country is the major overseas purchaser of our arms exports. Royalty have been frequently pressed into service as part of the charm offensive. Unsurprisingly, the culture secretary, Oliver Dowden MP said it was a ‘matter for the Premier League’ and the government is unlikely to intervene.
Football is big business and the sums paid to players and their transfer fees can be stratospheric. Players are hugely influential and many young people see them as heroes. Although players are not involved in this transaction directly, they will ultimately benefit from it financially.
To quote Jonathan Lieu writing in the Guardian:
And so, welcome to the new orthodoxies of English football. Saudi Arabia is good. Amnesty International is bad. New signings are more important than murder, broadcast rights more important than women’s rights, and a basic sense of humanity is ultimately expendable if you can scrape into next season’s Europa League. It’s a manifesto, to be sure. Just don’t expect anyone with a scintilla of decency to feel warmly about it. (23 April 2020)
Sources: Guardian, BBC, CNN