Saudi Arabia – As a Newcastle United fan, what am I supposed to do about it?
Little did I know, when as a teenager taking my place in the brilliant old Leazes End in the 1970s, that one day this would lead me to having to answer in the courts (of public opinion) about my responsibility for what happens in Saudi Arabia.
Back then I knew nothing about Saudi Arabia, apart from probably that was where the petrol came from that my dad filled his old Ford Anglia and then Vauxhall Viva up with.
At least I’m pretty sure those are the cars he had around the time of when I was first allowed to regularly go with my mates to the match instead of with an almost responsible adult. Promising my mam and dad that absolutely no way would I be setting foot in that lawless danger filled Leazes End and definitely I would be in the E Wing paddock (which was in front of the old West (now Milburn) stand.
Over 40 years on and I’m not sure I know an awful lot more about Saudi Arabia than I did back in the seventies, I certainly haven’t visited and indeed don’t personally know anybody else who has.
So like pretty much everybody else I rely on the media when it comes to knowledge of what goes on in Saudi Arabia, as I do with most parts of the world that I have never visited and have no connection with.
What I do know / understand now is that Saudi Arabia is one of those places in the world that I don’t approve of in terms of what goes on in many ways, where I am happy to say that I wish things were different and if I could press a magic button I would do so. Sadly, it is on a long list of places all around the glove where I feel the same / similar, whether it is China, North Korea, Afghanistan (back under the control of the Taliban), Qatar, Russia and so on.
Yes, I’m aware that some countries / territories / regions are worse than others and indeed maybe Saudi Arabia is one of the very worst. However, I see things in general from this perspective…that I don’t approve of anywhere that the people don’t have proper democracy, acceptable human rights, access to a proper legal system, where women don’t have equal rights, where minorities don’t have equal rights, where people are persecuted because of religion, sexuality, or whatever.
What do I actually do about these problem in other countries around the globe?
Well, I would claim that I always vote the right way in elections in the UK to try and have the best influence on matters elsewhere (as well as what affects people in Newcastle / England etc). I give money and support to various charities to help both those in this country, as well as overseas. I do my bit where I can but with the knowledge that my bit can never be enough. That we are reliant on governments and global organisations (the United Nations, WHO, NATO, G7…) to try and tackle these countries / bigger questions. Needless to say, they are doing a pretty woeful job. Just look at how Ukraine is being left to fend (defend) for itself, never mind the absolute failure to properly tackle the ever worsening climate change crisis.
However, whatever is happening in the world and what you as an individual think about it, when it comes to how governments / countries act towards other countries, tends to have very little to do with whether they are good or bad.
Bottom line is that Saudi Arabia (at least currently and indeed for all my adult life I believe) is / has been an ally of UK, especially when it comes to what goes on in that area of the world, plus you may have heard, it has oil.
We are talking about political expediency as the bottom line. The likes of Saudi Arabia are the UK’s allies because we need them apparently, whilst other objectionable countries / regimes, such as say North Korea, we apparently don’t need. Plus you have situations like China and the Hong Kong issues, reality is that it isn’t the ‘good old days’ when ‘Great’ Britain would send a gunboat that would sort them out, instead it is an admission that when it comes to dealing with an undemocratic entity the size and power of China, there is pretty much nothing we (not so Great Britain) can do other than protest very loudly…
Which brings me back to Saudi Arabia and myself (and every other Newcastle United fan).
On 7 October 2021, Newcastle United were bought by a consortium that includes Saudi Arabia interests owning 80% of the football club. Exactly who in Saudi Arabia enjoys the benefit of that 80% ownership and indeed has control and the final say, is of course a never ending topic of debate / argument.
So anyway, Saudi Arabia – As a Newcastle United fan, what am I supposed to do about it???
Here are a few observations before I give you my conclusions.
Celebrations of 7 October 2021
The spontaneous celebrations of takeover day, that saw many people get very drunk, which also included many fans flocking to St James Park and come together in that moment.
I can 100% say that I know, the massively by far biggest factor / reason for these joyous scenes, was the removal of Mike Ashley after over 14 years of neglect and running the club for his own personal benefit and wealth. Who the new owners were and how much money they might / might not spend, was by far secondary to seeing the back of Ashley.
Fly the flag
I was down at the Chelsea match where we were cheated out of a win, never mind a point.
Afterwards, I saw mention by certain journalists of a Saudi flag in the away end. I can honestly say I never saw a single Saudi flag in the NUFC end, though I did see images on social media following the defeat, showing a Saudi flag as part of some banner / advert(?) in front of an executive box or similar, in a Chelsea area, that was quite close to the NUFC section.
What I do know / believe is that at worst one of three thousand toon fans took a Saudi flag into Stamford Bridge, whereas I saw countless Newcastle supporters with Brazil flags at this game, yet those same journalists failed to mention this fact at all.
It is this type of generalisation that is for me totally unacceptable. If one Newcastle fan out of three thousand, or indeed fifty thousand at a home match, does something, is it then ok to blame us all? Speaking of which…
Tea towels for hats
The first home match under new ownership, saw hundreds of Newcastle fans turn up with tea towels on their heads and / or other ‘Saudi Arabia style’ outfits.
There were 52,214 people at that Tottenham game and some 52,000 of them were not wearing tea towels or similar.
As the Newcastle United owners later said, as did indeed a lot of people from that part of the world on social media, the tea towel etc wearing was not something truly offensive.
My take on it is that it was naff and personally I wouldn’t have gone to the match with a tea towel on my head if you paid me a thousand quid, but there you go, a few hundred people think differently and thought it was a laugh to do so. Whilst 52,000 went to the game without grabbing a tea towel on their way out of the house.
However, when it comes to Newcastle fans, the media / cameras will ALWAYS seek out the extremes. They could give us all 85,000 tickets to fill Wembley and you just know the Sky Sports cameras would focus in on the two 25 stone blokes with their tops off. Similarly, after that (thankfully!) final Steve Bruce defeat to Tottenham, you couldn’t move in the media for images of the couple of hundred NUFC fans in tea towels.
What about Mike Ashley?
One thing I find intriguing, extraordinary, though of course sadly, not surprising…
The entire Newcastle United fanbase of millions of people had zero votes.
Mike Ashley had all the votes.
Yet it is Newcastle fans who are then put in the dock to justify why 80% of the club is owned now by Saudi Arabia based people / interests and not the person who decided to sell the club to them AND pocketed £305m in the process.
How mad is this? I simply can’t get my head around it.
Why have the media never ever gone after Mike Ashley to try and force him to justify why he sold Newcastle United to ‘Saudi Arabia’…? Why no media campaign looking into what he has done with what they (the media) consider to be dirty money? Why no campaign to punish Mike Ashley for doing this, why no encouragement for the masses to demonstrate against his retail empire and himself benefiting from Saudi Arabia and their cash?
It is almost as if it is easier and guaranteed to get a reaction, to go after the entire NUFC fanbase for a decision that they had no say in.
What about the Reubens?
On a similar theme…
Why do the same journalists time after time have cheap digs at the Newcastle fans and yet don’t do the same with the Reuben family?
They (The Reuben family) own 10% of Newcastle United and are partners with the Saudi Arabia element of NUFC ownership, yet absolutely no questions asked of them by the media.
How weird is that, when you compare it to how they go after Billy from Byker (and Gary from Gateshead, William from Walker etc etc) to justify why his club is now controlled by Saudi Arabia and answer for the regime in that far off country.
You would almost think that the Reubens are the richest and arguably the most powerful family in this country…with the cash, lawyers, friends etc etc that Billy from Byker doesn’t have.
Sing when we’re (sometimes) winning
Following that defeat at Chelsea the other week, I also saw afterwards on social media some footage of around a dozen or so Newcastle fans outside Stamford Bridge singing ‘We’re richer than you’ towards some Chelsea supporters.
The footage was put up by some outraged journalist and then followed up by others, with the general theme being that this was clearly absolute proof of how the entire Newcastle United are shamelessly celebrating the ‘blood money’ riches that have come their way.
Quite amazingly, normal people not on their miles in the air moral high horses, would have seen this as a few lads having a laugh on their way into the match. Like the rest of us, the idea of actually winning any trophies is still a surreal concept I reckon for those outside Stamford Bridge, that singing ‘We’re richer than you’ was indeed just having a laugh and poking fun at the Chelsea fans because of their current situation (a ‘dismal’ situation that still includes being third in the Premier League and in the semi-finals of the FA Cup and quarters of the Champions League…and set to be sold to other multi-billionaires of a no doubt very similar dodgy background in some respect), they hadn’t woken up that morning and agreed to make some considered political statement outside Stamford Bridge in support of Saudi Arabia.
Twitter / Twits
Another common lazy theme for journalists is to take a few comments from Twitter and say, look, this is what Newcastle United fans think / are saying. Well, any argument you would want to make about anything in the entire world, you could find some comments somewhere on Twitter / social media to back you up.
Or if you can’t find them, do what these journalists do and poke a stick in yet again to wind up the Newcastle United fanbase and there will be at least a handful who will respond with something daft / extreme.
The third way / Conclusions
What the media increasingly want to do is to force this whole issue / argument into a two choice dilemma for Newcastle United fans.
Keep going to the matches / keep supporting Newcastle United
Stop going to the matches / stop supporting Newcastle United
The idea being that if you keep on going to the matches and / or supporting NUFC, then that somehow equates to supporting what goes on in Saudi Arabia.
The only concession these journalists would make, is that if you are going to continue going to Newcastle matches then you should be demonstrating against the Saudi Arabia part of the ownership.
This is of course nonsense and there is absolutely nothing wrong with the third way that the vast majority of Newcastle United fans occupy.
We will keep on supporting Newcastle United, going to the matches, without giving any support to the regime in Saudi Arabia, just like pretty much every other fan, of every other Premier League club, would have done if the same kind of ownership had taken over their club. That is if they (fans of other clubs) are honest.
Some Newcastle United fans have of course stopped going to matches and / or lowered their levels of support for the club, due to the Saudi Arabia element of the new ownership. That would also happen at any other club. However, they are absolutely kidding themselves when they claim there would be some kind of mass desertion and campaign to demand different ownership of their football club.
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