“All the perfumes and money of Arabia will not sweeten this deal or wipe away their crimes."

The fog of cognitive dissonance gets ever thicker on the Tyne. Newcastle United have qualified for the Champions League for the first time in 20 years. Chairman of the club, Yasir Al-Rumayyan appeared in a penalty shootout at halftime with the minority owners.

So much for the 'binding assurances' to the Premier League that the Saudi Public Investment fund (PIF) is separate from the Saudi state. Al-Rumayyan is a sitting Saudi minister and place-man of the Saudi regime’s chief dictator, Mohamed bin Salman. Yasir Al-Rumayyan clowned around on the pitch without a critical comment from Sky Sports or the North East media.

As NUFC Fans Against Sportswashing have said previously, Al-Rumayyan is not just any Saudi businessman - “He is the technocrat given the responsibility of putting Bin Salman’s vision into practice.” Bin Salman increasingly wanted Al-Rumayyan by his side. He bought Al-Rumayyan a house worth 250 million Saudi riyals (over $60m) near the presidential palace, while the two began spending long periods of time together beyond official meetings.”

A document submitted to a US court stated that: "The Public Investment Fund and His Excellency Yasir Othman Al-Rumayyan are not ordinary third parties subject to basic discovery relevance standards. They are a sovereign instrumentality of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and a sitting minister of the Saudi government…”

Newcastle United qualify for the Champions League, but is it OK to have a key figure in one of the most repressive regimes on the planet kicking a ball about in front of 50,000 Geordies? As this was happening, Saudi Human Rights organisation ESOHR reported the execution of three Saudi men on non-serious charges. This increases fears for the lives of up to 63 others on death row, including the minors NUFCFAS highlighted when we demonstrated outside of SJP this season.

The younger brother and 'consigliere' of Mohammed bin Salman attended the Carabao Cup Final wearing a Newcastle scarf. Other key figures in the regime like Turki bin Salman now feel they can publicly associate themselves with our club.

How have we arrived at the situation where the bloody Saudi dictatorship feels confident enough to increasingly and blatantly exploit their ownership of our club for sportswashing purposes? Let’s not kid ourselves that this is not happening. Sportswashing has been normalised at our club so much that the right-hand man of a dictator parades around the pitch in club colours.

The North East press takes a fair share of the blame for the situation. Instead of factually reporting on who the Newcastle Chair, Yasir Al-Rumayyan and other regime figures associating themselves with the club really are and their roles in the dictatorship and yes, their crimes too, the Evening Chronicle has acted like a giant PR megaphone for the owners.

Critical groups like NUFCFAS had to fight for the right to get our voices heard. Families of victims of the Saudi regime wrote a letter to Eddie Howe appealing for him to speak up for their loved ones. NUFCFAS delivered the letter to Eddie. The letter was reported widely in the national press, yet the North East media ignored it.

Next, North East politicians need to look at themselves in the mirror and ask, ‘have I done the job which I was elected to do?’ That job includes standing up for justice and human rights. Pre-takeover, a North East Labour MP raised the issue of repression in Saudi Arabia, but since then, nothing, despite being contacted numerous times by NUFCFAS and Saudi human rights groups to speak up for the victims of the 80% owners.

Finally, the official NUFC fan groups and fanzines have to shoulder a portion of the blame too. Pre-takeover, NUST and Wor Flags said they would be critical friends to the new owners regarding human rights. We are still waiting for the flag display in support of Saudi women, oppressed and jailed for decades by the same regime which owns 80% of our club. We are yet to see even one article in a NUFC fanzine or a statement by NUST in solidarity with the young kids on death row.

What is the red line for the North East press, politicians, fanzines and fan groups? Now that it is ‘normal’ for a key regime figure to appear in black and white on our pitch, how long before the chief Saudi dictator, MBS turns up at a match? Would that be too much? Tell us!

Even after 20 months of Saudi ownership of NUFC, we appeal to the North East media, politicians and fan groups to say something, anything, in favour of human rights in Saudi Arabia and if not, why not? What are you afraid of?

Champions League qualification will put the spotlight on Newcastle United and the Saudi dictators who are using us even more. Fellow fans who think the end justifies the means may have to reconsider. There is a growing movement around Europe after the Qatar World Cup against states owning football clubs and in favour of human rights. Newcastle fans will have to get used to criticism and hopefully will reflect on it.

In March this year, NUFCFAS told Channel 4 News that “Newcastle can be a successful club without requiring the support of a murderous regime” and it is notable that half of the players who took to the field last night were Newcastle United players before the takeover. Fabian Schar, Sean Longstaff, Elliot Anderson, Jacob Murphy, Miguel Almiron, Callum Wilson, and Allan Saint-Maximin all played last night, while Joe Willock, Joelinton and others also made big contributions over the course of the season. The Saudi-led owners appointed Eddie Howe to his role in November 2021, but he’d been a realistic prospect as Newcastle manager for some time by then, with bookies making him favourite to replace Steve Bruce as much as 10 months earlier.   

The foundations for a football club capable of Champions League qualification were in place long before Saudi Arabia became involved in NUFC, even in spite of the long years of neglect by the previous ownership. Success that isn’t tainted by an ever-growing association with a brutal dictatorship is entirely achievable. 

NUFCFAS will continue to be a critical voice against the bloody dictatorship which owns NUFC. We appeal to all our fellow fans to speak out about the gross human rights abuses committed by the 80% owners of our club and to oppose them using us to sportswash away their heinous crimes.

As lifelong Newcastle fans we love our club and region and we will not allow the temporary ownership of NUFC by the Saudi state to become normalised.



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