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Amnesty International say they now wish ‘Newcastle United fans and their team well’ BUT…

2 months ago
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Amnesty International have once again been talking about Newcastle United.

We are now just over a week into the new ownership after a takeover saga that lasted almost two years.

A long two years that saw Amnesty International repeatedly commenting on and campaigning around the proposed Saudi financed buyout of NUFC.

Newcastle fans often feeling that a lot of the coverage included unfair criticism of them, when all they wanted was to see an end to Mike Ashley’s ownership and a football club that would be run with some level of ambition, whoever ended up buying Newcastle United. The criticism aimed at Newcastle United fans felt particularly over the top, considering it was only Mike Ashley who had a vote on who did and didn’t but the football club and indeed it was he who would be pocketing over £300m if the club did indeed go over to Saudi control.

No surprise that once the takeover has indeed gone through, the media focus and criticism of Newcastle fans from many quarters has gone up by any number of notches, yet at the same time, quite unbelievably there is pretty much zero focus on the one individual who was the one who decided that the Saudi PIF would now own NUFC and who has the £305m sitting in his bank account now.

Some of the media coverage has been absolutely shameful in terms of distorting the reaction of the Newcastle United fanbase. A typical example saw the spontaneous celebrations outside St James Park on takeover day, described as Newcastle fans wearing Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman masks celebrating the takeover. When the reality was somewhere in the region of up to 10,000 Newcastle fans flocked to St James Park to sing and celebrate the departure of Mike Ashley with #cans, with from what I could see was one NUFC supporter wearing one of these masks.

Anyway, ahead of this Tottenham match, Amnesty International appear to have refined their approach to the issues surrounding the takeover, as in an official statement their CEO has declared ‘we wish Newcastle United fans and their team well’…however, then adding…’but we remain deeply concerned about how our football clubs are being used for sportswashing.’

I think this is a far better approach by Amnesty International, as Newcastle fans desperately want to be able to enjoy supporting their team once again after so many years, after the departure at last of Mike Ashley, BUT at the same time many of them will also be open to helping Amnesty International with their campaigning, if the organisation can come up with practical ideas on how this can be done.

Sacha Deshmukh is CEO of Amnesty International UK, speaking ahead of Newcastle v Tottenham:

“Whatever the result on Sunday, we wish Newcastle United fans and their team well, but we remain deeply concerned about how our football clubs are being used for sportswashing.

“Football clubs being purchased for the purpose of trying to distract from serious human rights violations isn’t confined to Newcastle, and sportswashing isn’t confined to football, but the Saudi takeover has obviously brought the issue of human rights and football governance into sharp relief.

“Despite assurances about a supposed separation from the Saudi state, ownership of St James Park is now very much about image management for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his government.

“As the season progresses we hope fans, players and Newcastle United backroom staff will look seriously at the human right situation in Saudi Arabia and be prepared to speak out about the jailing of people like Abdulrahman al-Sadhan, whose 20 year sentence for tweeting was upheld just hours before the Newcastle deal went through.

“We’d like to see Tracey Crouch’s forthcoming review into football governance accepting the case for strengthening the owners’ and directors’ rules, to make them human rights-compliant and prevent those implicated in serious human rights violations from buying their way into English football.”

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