Manchester United should be grateful for the takeover of Newcastle FC – Tyrone Marshall

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Tribal football loyalties can do strange things to our senses, which is probably why a Newcastle fanzine called Amnesty International’s criticism of the Saudi regime “a publicity stunt” this week, some fans asking where Amnesty was when they protested Mike Ashley and why everyone was suddenly jealous of the potential riches coming to St James’ Park.

It would be unfair to tease all Newcastle supporters with the same brush. Many are dismayed that their club belongs to a regime criticized by Amnesty for its human rights record, citing longstanding issues, including women’s rights, treatment of the LGBT community and restriction freedom of expression. .

Then there is the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul 18 months ago. As Saudi authorities deny involvement, a 2019 UN report said there is “credible evidence” that the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, and other senior officials, are responsible for the murder. So it’s not really the type of association you want your football club to have, but the prospect of signing Kylian Mbappe can make it easier to turn the other cheek at such atrocities, it seems.

Seeing the fallout from the deal that seems likely to give the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) an 80% share of Newcastle, Manchester United fans who were disgusted by the prospect of their own club becoming a pawn in public relations attempts could breathe a sigh of relief that the bonds of a takeover now cease.

There have been reports that a Saudi-backed consortium has been considering a takeover of United since 2018, although in truth there has never been any hint that the Glazers were ready to sell. Part of the speculation is the result of smoke believed to have come from a fire.

In August 2018, Avram Glazer was at the Future Investment Initiative conference in Riyadh, and then last year, director Richard Arnold was photographed shaking hands with Saudi delegates in the country. But Arnold knows bin Salman’s son because he worked in telecommunications, and in 2017 United signed a memorandum of understanding with the General Sports Authority of Saudi Arabia to develop the football industry in the state. from the Gulf.

Such was the desperation of a minority of United fans on social networks to see the back of the Glazers that they were happy to welcome news of a Saudi takeover, but it would have been a desperate blow for a club. traditions of United, the one they may never have recovered. The names of the stars may have arrived at Old Trafford, the trophies may have followed, but it would have been a heavy price to pay. Too heavy, no doubt, for some fans.

Although the Glazers have their faults, and the protests against their property are unlikely to go away anytime soon, they are at least preferable to a diet with the recent history of Saudi Arabia, though many Newcastle fans would prefer them to Mike Ashley and his zero hour contracts and massive cups.

In a letter to the Premier League expressing their concerns, Amnesty International’s UK director Kate Allen said: “While Saudi Arabia is not the only country whose companies have bought a large stake in a club, Premier League, the proposed acquisition has two aspects. who would put that aside.

“First, Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy in which the crown prince plays the role of king and controls all economic, political and foreign relations. With the oversight of the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund, it is very unlikely that such a large commercial transaction as the takeover of a Premier League club could take place without its authorization.

“Most importantly, the crown prince used sporting events and personalities to enhance the reputation of the Kingdom after the gruesome murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi – widely believed to have taken place with his approval. Such positive associations with sporting events also distract attention from the appalling human rights record in Saudi Arabia.

Maybe Ashley wasn’t that bad after all. The takeover has not yet been ratified by the Premier League, but little seems likely to stop it now. Football has gone too far on the state road when it comes to human rights records with club stakes to unplug now. But that doesn’t mean that if you can’t beat them, join them, and as United has shown, they can beat them too.

Newcastle may well win its first trophy since 1955 under Saudi ownership, they could do it in style. But for many Newcastle fans, it will not be the same. United fans should see this as an opportunity.

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