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Opinion

Newcastle United takeover – It’s the hypocrisy that I can’t stand

1 month ago
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Like a lot of NUFC supporters I’ve spoken to, I have mixed emotions about the Newcastle United takeover.

However, I have been taken aback by the lack of insight and double standards displayed by a lot of journalists, politicians and football pundits, when commenting about this takeover.

In fact, the most interesting and enlightening articles I have read about the Newcastle United takeover have either been on The Mag, or in the foreign media.

I am talking in particular about Alexander St Leger’s piece in The Mag (read HERE) about one of the first examples of sports-washing in the Premier League, way back in 2003, when Putin ‘encouraged’ Abramovich to purchase Chelsea to improve the image of Russia in the west. Plus, James Drape-Comyn’s piece (read HERE) about the motivation behind the Saudi investment in Newcastle and the economic and political situation in Saudi Arabia.

There was also an article on the Forbes website which questioned why this deal was coming under so much scrutiny when money from individuals and organisations with links to repressive regimes, has been flowing into the coffers of various Premiership clubs for at least the last two decades.

After the Newcastle United takeover happened, an NUFC fan was interviewed on the BBC and the interviewer told him that from now on there would be an asterisk against anything that Newcastle United achieved in the future, as it was being done with Saudi money. As the BBC is now interested in the ethics of football ownership, can we expect them to say that the achievements of say Chelsea or Wolves, or any of the other clubs whose owners have links to repressive regimes, have to be questioned and have an asterisk placed against them.

And just as Alan Shearer has been asked about the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia, can we expect Gary Neville to be asked the same question, as there is also Saudi money invested in Manchester United.

Will Lee Dixon be asked to comment on the human rights situation in Rwanda and The Emirates as they sponsor Arsenal and will Jamie Carragher be asked to comment on the suppression of the Uighurs and the repressive nature of the communist regime, given that a Chinese state run company is one of Liverpool’s sponsors.

I am also looking forward to Frank Lampard being questioned about Abramovich’s close links to a Russian Government which has committed human rights abuses, has waged wars in Syria and Ukraine, has assassinated it’s political opponents both at home and abroad and has been implicated in the murders of British citizens, including the two Newcastle United supporters whose plane was shot down over The Ukraine.

However, some politicians didn’t think the BBC’s coverage of the Newcastle United takeover was sufficiently critical. There were a couple of MPs on the select committee which deals with sporting matters, who were highly critical of the BBC’s coverage of the takeover in general and of Newcastle fans in particular. What I’d like to ask those MPs is, have you or your political parties ever opposed Saudi investment or trade with Saudi Arabia in the areas that you represent, or conversely have you actually welcomed Saudi trade and investment? I’d also like to know if they also opposed investment from other repressive regimes such as China?

I agree with the commentators who say that we all need to be aware of the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia but this scrutiny can’t just apply to Newcastle United supporters, it needs to apply to all of football and to society in general. Unfortunately, when Newcastle United supporters have made this point they have been accused of ‘whataboutery’ which just seems to be a way of shutting down this debate.

However, I do feel there has been a lot of hypocrisy with certain commentators taking the high ground.

How about Graeme Souness? His criticism of the Saudi takeover of Newcastle United is undermined by the fact he is paid by the Qataris who have also been accused of human rights abuses.

Finally, we have the Man United weblog The Stretty News.

First someone called Dale O’Donnell criticised the Saudi investment in Newcastle United, until someone helpfully pointed out to him that the Saudis had been putting money into Man United for over 13 years.

He then criticised how Steve Bruce had been treated by the Newcastle fans.

If any group of fans are likely to get on the back of their manager then it’s Man Utd fans. I can still remember being in a pub towards the end of Sir Alex Ferguson’s time at Man Utd and their fans in the pub were giving him dog’s abuse because Man Utd were only drawing with Newcastle. According to the assembled Man Utd fans he didn’t know what he was doing, he was past it and he should have been replaced years ago.

That’s despite the fact that Alex Ferguson was their most successful manager ever and also the most trophy laden manager The Premiership has ever seen. I believe at the time Man Utd were also the reigning champions.

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