Newcastle United & the £300m Saudi takeover
It’s not yet finalised, but save for a dramatic turn of events, Mike Ashley’s days at St James’ Park are numbered.
After 13 years at Newcastle, Ashley is poised to sell his stake in the club for 300 million pounds.
The takeover is being led by the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund.
The expectation is that the Premier League may take up to three weeks before giving the green light to the takeover.
Ollie Holt slammed the Newcastle deal with Saudi Arabia
Last weekend, Daily Mail journalist Ollie Holt took up the baton of attacking the moral standing of the Newcastle takeover by Saudi Arabia.
Holt’s op-ed in the Mail had the provocative title: “The true poison of Mike Ashley is that Newcastle now welcome an owner whose people have his critics murdered.”
For the record, in their World Report 2019, the Human Rights Watch said this about the Saudis:
After weeks of denials and obfuscations, Saudi Arabia admitted to Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.
However, should these world events really concern Newcastle fans?
For Holt, the answer is a solid ‘yes’.
He scolded Newcastle fans who may be getting excited about the takeover, courtesy of a rather preachy tone:
I am already familiar with the excuses and the justifications that are being prepared by some in the North East…
But let’s be honest about it: if the Saudi-led takeover of Newcastle goes through, it will be a new low for the English game.
Ashley’s cohorts might have banned you from the club but at least they did not ban you from your fingers, hands, toes, feet and head. So let’s not pretend Newcastle are getting some sort of upgrade here.
— Oliver Holt (@OllieHolt22) April 18, 2020
Richard Keys joins Ollie Holt on the Newcastle fans hate list
On Tuesday, Richard Keys has also spoken out against the Newcastle takeover on ‘The Keys & Gray Show’ on Bein Sports.
Keys remains a figure of fun for many in the UK. The former Sky Sports anchor, and Andy Gray, famously lost their jobs for sexism in the workplace, which Keys later argued was just “banter”.
Should Keys really speak out publicly on issues of morality?
Well, he has, and he’s gone after the Newcastle-Saudi takeover in the following rant:
I wish it wasn’t Newcastle United that the Saudis want to buy.
We’ve been talking a lot about morality and resetting the button, and when we all come back why there’s a good reason we can all expect football to be better.
There were a number of different views on this at the weekend. Oliver Holt who I respect and think is a terrific writer was way off the mark.
Barney Ronay in the Guardian was spot on. Andy Dunn in the Mirror, absolutely spot on.
Are we to look away and forget everything? Now is there an argument that it is nobody’s business how Saudi Arabia does it’s business domestically?
There is an argument that it is nobodies business what Saudi Arabia does domestically. I get that. We should never try and impose western cultures and principles upon them, it is up to them how they run their country.
But if you are a host county and are inviting in then I think you have a right to say: ‘Look, here are the rules.’
The reason I’m having difficulty with this is that, if it were to go through – and I’m still not sure it will – we at Bein Sports have spent the last two years fighting Saudi Arabia who have been broadcasting our sports rights illegally (through) a company called BeoutQ.
It has cost this company, Bein Sports, millions. It cost 400 of our colleagues’ jobs.
— Big Cel (@BigCel5) April 21, 2020
The Bein Sports fight with Saudi Arabia’s BeoutQ
Keys got the layoff figures at Bein Sports a little wrong.
Rather than 400, Bein Sports laid off around 300 employees in Qatar, or about 18% of the local workforce, back in June 2019. That’s according to Bloomberg.
But leaving those extra 100 jobs aside, Keys did raise a legitimate issue: that Saudi Arabia-backed company BeoutQ has been illegally broadcasting sports content for years.
Even the Premier League have been trying to shut down BeoutQ.
As reported in the AP in January 2019, FIFA, UEFA, the Asian Football Confederation plus the Premier League, Bundesliga and La Liga wrote a joint statement denouncing the “persistent and illegal screening” of matches which infringed on Bein Sports’ broadcasting rights.
It’s also worth noting that The Athletic’s David Ornstein has flagged up the problems surrounding BeoutQ.
Speaking on the ‘The Ornstein & Chapman Podcast’ on Monday (audio below), Ornstein said:
An issue that not many people have mentioned around (the Newcastle takeover) is that the Premier League were in a bitter legal dispute with a Saudi Arabian company – BeoutQ – over piracy of Premier League rights.
There’s a lot to be worked through here, which means (the takeover) may take longer than some were expecting.
How Newcastle fans have reacted on social media
Newcastle supporters are piling onto social media to shoot down the likes of Ollie Holt and Richard Keys for talking negatively about the takeover.
Some of the vitriol – as you may expect on Twitter – has been incredibly harsh.
It seems that Newcastle supporters now have the unenviable task of either (a) attacking any haters on their own moral failings or, (b) taking on the job of defending Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.
Is this the place that Newcastle fans really want to be?
Richard Keys: “I wish it was another club. I just wish it wasn’t Newcastle United that the Saudis wanted to buy.”
Well, hairyarse, it is us. Dread it. Run from it. Destiny arrives all the same. #nufc
— NUFC 360 (@NUFC360) April 21, 2020
Newcastle getting lectured on morals by Stan Collymore on Monday, Richard Keys on Tuesday, i’m expecting Kim Jong Un on Wednesday
— Paul (@Paul_Coull) April 21, 2020
“We’ve been talking about morality recently”
— ⚫️⚪️ (@AlbertFluque) April 21, 2020
— Gary Thompson (@gary302) April 19, 2020
I hope you remember writing this Ollie – let’s keep some consistency. pic.twitter.com/gogFGg2HYJ
— ‘ (@LeesLostSoul) April 18, 2020
So what should Newcastle fans do about the Saudi takeover?
Returning to ‘The Ornstein & Chapman Podcast’, The Athletic reporter and Newcastle diehard George Caulkin voiced his opinion on the Saudi-Newcastle deal, and how fans should handle the moral issues involved. He said:
Do I look at Saudi Arabia and feel happy about things I’ve read? Clearly not. I’m troubled by it.
But I also think that if there was a line a line in the sand, it was past a long time ago.
Whether it was Russian oligarchs or Chinese involvement. There is already Saudi Arabia interest in the Premier League in the shape of Sheffield United’s owner.
One way you can look to counter sports-washing is by people making themselves familiar with what’s happened in Saudi Arabia.
I’m far more worried about my country (the UK) selling arms to Saudi Arabia.
I think it’s OK for Newcastle fans to be very excited.
I think it’s OK to judge the new owners on what they do.
This article was edited by Ben Green.