Are there any Newcastle United fans who believe Richard Keys was putting the man on the street first?
Newcastle United fans have become fair game of late, as pundits and columnists cast aspersions and patronise about a perceived willingness to sacrifice moral fibre for footballing success.
Their accusation is simple: we are willing to accept tyrannical owners with a diabolical human rights record because we’re more interested in what it will do for our football club.
And to give those critics an ounce of credibility (for they deserve that, probably), there is perhaps some truth to their deeply exaggerated and heavily twisted narrative.
It is clearly utter nonsense to denounce the Geordies as a nation of uncaring animals who care not a jot about women’s rights, repression, the death penalty and the persecution/prosecution of activists.
But it is true that the majority of supporters are more than willing (enthusiastic even) to accept our football club’s prospective new owners due to the vast improvement it will bring versus the status quo.
And therein lies the great irony in all of this.
While we stand accused of putting football before morality, all those others are just as guilty of putting self-interest first, but with an added helping of dishonestly disguising their motives.
Does anyone really believe that beIN Sports, who have survived perfectly well and turned over enormous profits while operating alongside global piracy for many years, are suddenly up in arms on a matter of principle?
I think not. Of far more concern to beIN’s top brass is the prospect of a major competitor taking a foothold in the English game and using a fraction of that vast wealth to win the broadcasting rights they so dearly cherish.
Are we meant to believe that Richard Keys was putting the man on the street first, when he initially voiced concerns in relation to human rights breaches? Or might it be that the disgraced presenter fears what will happen if the only network prepared to employ him loses the jewel in its crown?
It’s odd, because I don’t remember Mr Keys kicking up too big a fuss when the Qatari state exploited foreign workers to build their World Cup stadia, paying them a pittance to work in dangerous conditions and live in squalor.
And now we learn that many Premier League clubs are, apparently, voicing their objections to officials, as they are also deeply concerned.
Funny that, let’s add the “Premier League clubs object to rival team becoming stronger” headline alongside “turkeys voting ‘leave’ in the Christmexit referendum”.
As Newcastle United fans, we are powerless to affect the Saudi state’s dodgy dealings, and no amount of protest or demonstrations of morality can change that.
If neither any Government, Prime Minister, President, the European Union nor the United Nations are going to create the legislative basis for any kind of sanctions against Saudi Arabia, does anyone really expect that either the Premier League or the supporters of Newcastle United should?
The very worst we can be accused of is taking a different position to that which we might have taken if it had been another football club that was the subject of this interest.
And on that allegation, I hold up my hands.
We’ve been there before – nobody except the supporters benefiting liked it when Roman Abramovich took his billions to Chelsea, or when Sheikh Mansour purchased Manchester City.
When the various investors from the other side of the Atlantic took the reins at Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal, nobody except their own supporters wanted to see millions of pounds resulting in an even more fearsome challenge on the pitch.
And we were here to a lesser extent and local level in the 1990s too – Sir John Hall invested in Newcastle just as Jack Hayward did at Wolves and Lionel Pickering at Derby to differing degrees of success, while Jack Walker’s millions took the title to Blackburn.
So, yes, if Amanda Staveley was trying to invest these monies somewhere else, we too would probably offer a jealous glance, just as so many others are firing those self-interested looks in our direction now.
And let’s be clear, that is at the heart of it: self-interest.
Whether it is the broadcasters in Qatar worrying about their TV deal, Premier League club owners fearing another big player muscling in on their ‘Big Six’ profits, or supporters, ex-players and pundits from across the land apprehensive about a stronger, more competitive Newcastle United.
Self-interest, self-interest, self-interest. Neither human rights nor the morality of TV piracy even come into in.
So while Newcastle United fans maybe have put their footballing desires and desperation to see the back of Mike Ashley first and foremost in their thinking over this issue, at least we’ve done so openly and honestly. And that’s much more that can be said for all those others.
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