The Newcastle United club, a competitor in the English Premier League, confirmed its refusal for the Saudi authorities to use its club for sports washing months after acquiring most of its shares.
John Hurd, a founding member of the Newcastle United Association, said that the Saudis use public relations and all areas of life to ensure the most significant possible influence on public opinion in Britain.
In October 2021, Newcastle United became the wealthiest football club in the world when the Premier League announced that Saudi Arabia was the club’s new owner in a deal worth $415 million.
According to Hurd, the deal was concluded with the help of an American public relations company, which worked to cheer the Saudi regime and polish its image.
He said that the deal that saved the economically faltering club caused a lot of confusion among the British public opinion and the Newcastle United fan association. The League did not like the club’s acquisition by a bloodthirsty dictator and began extensive campaigns in this regard.
He added that before the regime took over Newcastle Club, the Saudi ambassador, Prince Khaled bin Bandar, visited Newcastle and watched one of the club’s matches.
Several Saudi officials also followed the club’s account on Twitter, such as Prince Abdullah Aziz bin Turki Al Saud, Saud Al-Faisal, and the Director General of State Security also followed the report and made some tweets. It is no secret that the hands of these officials are polluted with blood.
He considered it surprising that the media did not report the event at all, and many of them no longer talk about the Saudi regime’s human rights violations since the purchase deal took place, and what is also shocking is that none of the representatives in parliament and other councils recorded an explicit position on the matter.
Even the chairman of Newcastle made promises about investments in Saudi Arabia, and all attempts to oppose this decision were silenced. Relations between the club and the Kingdom had strengthened since then, as the team and the coach went to Saudi Arabia when the regime was killing children and launching an attack on Yemen.
Hurd confirmed that buying the club is one of the many deals with which the regime is trying to wash its images, such as the NEOM project and others. It seeks to help politicians and journalists to establish a narrative based on deception, and today it has become more accessible and more misleading with the use of social media. However, in light of the enormous financial capabilities, the people cannot change this.
He stated that the English club presidents consider that there is no ability to change what happened, and they justify this with the presence of other teams owned by Arab countries such as the UAE. Other officials promote the ability to influence Saudi Arabia and transform it into a liberal state based on these deals, trying to ignore the fact that the Saudi regime executed one.
Despite the penetration of the narrative promoted by the Saudi regime, many Newcastle fans still decisively reject all of Riyadh’s practices.
The Newcastle Supporters Association has launched a group on Facebook and Twitter to launch campaigns to stop the washing that Saudi Arabia is doing in the world of sports. Many meetings were held in the past period, and during the sessions, we were trying to document the violations that Saudi Arabia is constantly practising in its war on Yemen.
It was noted the absence of sharp voices that objected to this deal. Still, the club president and all those responsible for this deal were criticized in other countries such as Germany and Finland. This confirms the global characteristic of football and the inability to separate football from the rest of human affairs.
Hurd concluded, “We, as a league of fans and human rights defenders, are still trying to expand and reach higher levels. Some articles have been published, and some interviews published in magazines have been conducted.”
He explained, “The documentation we did reached the international media, but these materials were not published in the local media. We also got access to radio and television programs, and today we have become a reference on the issue of laundry in sports.”