Issue with Mike Ashley? Newcastle have warned that potential new Saudi owners will contaminate the club

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23 April 2020, 17:40 IST changed

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A Newcastle United fan holds an anti-Mike Ashley banner

Newcastle United have been warned that a Saudi-backed proprietary group instead of Mike Ashley will tarnish the club’s reputation because of the country’s mental human rights record.

Ashley has owned Newcastle since 2007, but for the most part it has been widely considered obsolete, especially since the resignation of manager Kevin Kegan in September 2006.

Millionaire Ashley has repeatedly criticized supporters for believing a lack of ambition, limited relocation costs and a lack of priority for wrongdoing.

Asley had previously been close to selling the club, but the নেওয়া 300 million deal taken by a consortium chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman under Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) is now expected to be awaiting Premier League approval.

Critics point to Saudi Arabia’s history of human rights abuses, with Amnesty International suggesting that it is an attempt at “sports washing” – diverting attention from areas of concern, or using sports or a club as a PR tool to improve a country’s image.

PIF is generally regarded as a sovereign asset fund, which will create a direct link between Newcastle and Bin Salman, and Amnesty International UK campaign chief Felix Jackson is urging fans to understand his involvement with the club.

“We are totally sympathetic to Newcastle United fans who want to release an owner who doesn’t treat the club or the city very well in their eyes and they want change, they want to be successful, they want to be at the top of the league,” Jackson said.

“It’s not the responsibility of Newcastle fans, we’re talking about everyone involved in the Premier League and the club, but we want Newcastle fans to be aware of who the Saudis are, because it’s important that they understand that and what they think about the owners. Able to create its own mind.

“While they have a real problem with Mike Ashley, there could be other public relations issues along the way with the Saudis. As I said, there are no reforms, bad PR will get in the way of Newcastle.

“[In Saudi Arabia] There will be more massacres, more imprisonment of peaceful democracy protesters, more arrests and imprisonment of LGBT people, more possible schools, hospitals and mosques bombed in Yemen and they [Newcastle fans] They need to think very carefully about how they will talk to their owners about those issues, which will probably continue. “

Amnesty called on the Premier League to consider Saudi Arabia’s human rights record when evaluating potential new owners, arguing that allowing them to return to any club would undermine the league’s inclusion and diversification initiatives.

Asked what it would mean if such acquisitions passed the Premier League tests, Felix said: “It would also show that a government like Saudi Arabia can pass them, and we will request – and we request – that the Premier League be fully aware of what?” What is happening in Arabia, be really aware of what sports washing is and what it means and the reputation of the Premier League.

“They [the Premier League] Run an inclusion and diversification campaign, the Rainbow Lace Campaign, which has been extremely successful and involves people from all walks of life, including the people of LGBT.

“Saudi Arabia is a country where LGBT people could face the death penalty, so their owners and managers should be judged by all their criteria in the test and we urge them to consider their human rights situation. They do it.”