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Opinion

Newcastle United takeover is desperately needed – But not on these terms

5 months ago
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Newcastle United fans with an interest in English history, will know that two hundred years ago flogging was an accepted punishment, executions were regular, freedom of expression and assembly were restricted, protest was made illegal by royal proclamation, women had few rights and people could be detained without trial for long periods.

Yet these human rights’ abuses, or something akin to them, are current in Saudi Arabia.

So why would anyone with a grain of morality want to take themselves and our club back two centuries and associate with people whose country commits such abuses, with a potential Newcastle United takeover reportedly set to eventually happen this summer.

Mike Ashley has no bones about it but surely some supporters do?

Without question the Saudi Public Investment Fund has lots of money; after all, its purpose is to invest on behalf of the government of Saudi Arabia, but how tainted is it?

Fans could do well to think long and hard before they welcome the Saudi PIF funding a Newcastle United takeover.

An ongoing question is should Mike Ashley sell Newcastle United? The answer is of course yes, absolutely, remove his stranglehold and good riddance.

On the other hand, should Mike Ashley sell to the Saudi Public Investment Fund? Informed people could say no. Would a PIF takeover release the vast potential of the club, or would it be another controlling hand? The saying “Be careful what you wish for” speaks volumes.

A 2015 employment tribunal indicated that Mike Ashley was content, presumably until he was found out, to have his Sports Direct warehouse employees controlled in a management culture of oppression and abuse. Iain Wright MP, chair of the investigating Business, Innovation and Skills Committee, said “The evidence we heard points to a business whose working practices are closer to that of a Victorian workhouse than that of a modern, reputable High Street retailer..”

So Mike Ashley is no stranger to rights’ abuse. The shameful treatment of Jonas Gutierrez reinforces this view.

A quasi-Victorian workhouse owner and a regime which, allegedly, had journalist Jamal Khashoggi murdered, could be a regrettable sequence for the future?

As things stand, some would say that Mike Ashley does not have a grain of morality; however, he is keen to sell his over-priced club to the Saudi PIF. But what character of club would United be as a result?

Startling though it seems, could it be better if United was relegated in 2021? Mike Ashley would have to join the real world and sell the club at a realistic ‘Championship’ price. That could attract a person or persons with the financial wherewithal to grow our great club in a sustainable way for its shareholders, ideally including supporter shareholders, the city, the North East, its players and staff, 50,000 regular fans and supporters across the world?

Equally important, it could be someone who would pass the Premier League’s Owners and Directors Test in section F of its rules, which so far the Saudi PIF has not done.

Money alone does not make a club; look at the ill-managed merry go round of managers at Chelsea?

In the hands of sound owners, the recruitment of Rafa Benitez for the long-term to take over every aspect of football and return the club to the Premiership would be a good, clean and much acclaimed start.

With Rafa at the helm of a well-managed and ambitious club, the rest, as they say, would be history – Newcastle United’s future history – clearly one of the best supported and well respected clubs in Britain, but also one which is massively overdue success.

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