After NUFC Fans Against Sportswashing uncovered emails which show Newcastle City Council has developed a too cosy relationship with the Saudi regime which owns NUFC, new shocking revelations are coming out about the Modern Day Slavery practices of a club sponsor.

Equidem, the Gulf based Workers’ Rights NGO has uncovered shocking details of mistreatment of workers in Saudi Arabia by the Newcastle United sponsor Noon.

Noon, the Gulf’s largest online retailer, has been Newcastle’s sleeve sponsor for the past two years. Its circular logo is prominent on the club’s shirt, stadium, and website. It will be there again next season — despite multiple allegations unearthed of serious worker mistreatment within the company’s supply chain. This news was known by the club before the release of the club’s new Adidas kit, earlier this month.

Newcastle fans should feel angry that the new strip carries the emblem of a company which abuses its workers.

Equidem will be publishing their full report on Modern Day Slavery in Saudi Arabia on June 18th. The report is hugely embarrassing for Newcastle City Council, which has so far failed to make good on pre-Saudi takeover commitments to ‘keep talking about human rights.’ 

In fact, when Newcastle City Council made a statement after emails revealed their close relationship with the Saudi state owned club, they referred to, ‘alleged human rights abuses’. This is a worrying development as human rights abuses committed by the Saudi regime are not ‘alleged’ but are scrupulously documented by respected human rights groups and NGOs such as Amnesty International.

Newcastle City Councillors need to account for their lack of action. Why would a Labour council want to collaborate with the Saudi state owned club which is  sponsored by a company accused of terrible abuses against its workforce?

The Council has a policy opposed to Modern Day Slavery which states: ‘Where we employ people through neutral vendors, each agency used by the vendor is required to be compliant with the Modern Slavery Act 2015.’

Unfortunately, the Labour council has instead tried to forge a close relationship with the owners of Newcastle United, to the extent the council leader Nick Kemp even asked them to finance free school meals in the city. Now we find out that a club sponsor is facing serious accusations of being involved in Modern Day Slavery in Saudi Arabia.

Newcastle Amnesty International have pointed out that companies in the UK which do not do due human rights diligence on their business associates in Saudi Arabia could be liable to worker compensation claims under the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

Newcastle City Council should follow its own policy and raise the accusations that club sponsor Noon is involved in horrendous exploitation of workers with Newcastle United Chairman Yasir al-Rumayyan, who is also a sitting minister in the Saudi government.

Saudi regime ownership of NUFC should not buy the silence of our elected representatives on serious questions of abuse of workers’ rights and Modern Slavery. 

During Ashley's mismanagement of the club, fans, trade unions and Newcastle City Council united in opposition to the exploitation of workers at Sports Direct on Zero Hours contracts.

Surely we have a duty today to show the same solidarity to workers in Saudi Arabia suffering Modern Day Slavery conditions? NUFC fan groups should make it clear they stand with exploited Noon workers in Saudi Arabia as we did with workers on Zero Hour contracts at Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct.

Equidem will be be publicly launching their report; "Broken Promises: Forced Labour in Saudi Arabia and the Fast-Tracked World Cup Bid" via a Webinar on June 18th.

We invite NUFC fans, trade unionists and Newcastle councillors to attend. The Saudi regime which owns our city’s football club cannot be allowed to use that ownership to divert attention away from the super exploitation of workers and Modern Day Slavery practices of one of their major sponsors.


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