- Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund is planning a $440 million takeover of English Premier League club Newcastle United.
- Amnesty International has described the move as “sportswashing.”
- In a recent poll, 80 percent of Newcastle fans don’t care about the Saudi’s track record of human rights violations.
It seems Newcastle United fans may finally get their wish. Current owner Mike Ashley may soon be a distant memory.
Such is the hatred and resentment towards Ashley that those same fans are seemingly willing to overlook any issues there may be with the figure behind the $440 million takeover proposal.
Out of the frying pan and into the fire?
Recent reports suggest that British financier Amanda Staveley fronts the takeover attempt. However, a sizable percentage of the funds will be coming from a controversial source.
Some 80 percent of the finance is being provided by the Saudi Arabia Sovereign Wealth Fund, which is under the control of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.
Amnesty International has painted this takeover attempt as the next step in the Gulf state’s effort at “sportswashing.” This constitutes attempting to use sports purchases and events to gloss over some horrendous human rights violations by both the Kingdom itself and the Crown Prince.
Only last year the Saudis bankrolled the huge boxing rematch between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz. There is now talk of another Joshua blockbuster in Saudi this year or next.
Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman is a controversial figure
The rap sheet on the Crown Prince is pretty impressive. Most will recall the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018. A known critic of the Crown Prince, Khashoggi went missing while in the Saudi consulate building in Turkey. It was reported that he faced torture before being murdered under direct orders from Salman. The Crown Prince, however, has always denied involvement. He claims those responsible will face charges, saying:
Once charges are proven against someone, regardless of their rank, it will be taken to court, no exception made.
Reports arose in January this year that the Crown Prince played a part in the hacking of Amazon chief Jeff Bezos’ cellphone. Salman has also spoken out in defense of China’s treatment of millions of Muslim minorities, which reportedly involves prison camps and torture.
Newcastle United fans seem unmoved by these allegations
The Newcastle Evening Chronicle staged a poll of fans asking if the reports of human rights issues and accusations against the individuals involved in the takeover of the club would give them cause to object to the move.
Eighty percent of the fans polled said they were in favor of the takeover regardless. Put simply; they don’t care. In all honesty, why should they?
The English game is fueled by one thing. Money.
Fans of Newcastle United have spent decades grudgingly watching their competition in Manchester and London splash the cash. Now they see their chance to buy their way into contention.
If the takeover succeeds and Newcastle United goes on to win a league title, don’t bet against there being a statue of the Crown Prince erected in Newcastle city center.