Our commitment remains to provide a platform for all shades of opinion amongst Newcastle United supporters regarding the club and the game more widely. We expect the opinion piece below from John Hird will provoke reactions – but we hope debate can be conducted with some consideration. 

John’s view isn’t one we would say TF agrees with but we are keen that he has a platform to express it:

 NUFC fans standing against ‘public opinion’ over the takeover of our club by the theocratic, murderous Saudi dictatorship, have been called, ‘virtue signallers’ and ‘snowflakes’ on social media. I will, by the way, be referring to the atrocities of the club’s new owners by their actual names and not reducing them to the status of ‘issues’, which seems to be the way fans bury the contradiction of a region, rich in working class traditions like solidarity and human rights, embracing a billionaire Wahhabi sect which bombs children and crushes democracy. There is a mass cognitive dissonance fog on Tyneside which many fans, although a minority at the moment can see through.

The longer Tyneside looks the other way regarding the repercussions of this deal for the region and the reputation of our club, the more implicated in the dirty business they will become. NUFC will become a pariah in the game. The Crystal Palace banner is only the start. Every atrocity carried out in the future by the blood thirsty regime will be associated with our club. Is it worth it?

Fans who go along with this deal will increasingly be put in a position of defending the Saudi regime. The truth is, there is no defence and no amount of ‘what about Manchester City and Chelsea?’ will cut it. Piling another wrong on top of a stinking pile of other wrongs regarding the ownership of Premiership clubs, does not make this right.

Unfortunately, too many NUFC fans are turning inwards and playing the victim. Why pick on us?

NUFC fans say they are powerless but are we really? During this year fan power has defeated the Euro Super League. Unfortunately one result of the Saudi deal will be to encourage the richest clubs to try again.

16 years ago a minority of Manchester United fans decided the takeover MUFC by the Glazers was the final straw and formed a fan owned club. F.C. United is the largest fan-owned football club in the United Kingdom.

FIT AND PROPER?

The only reason PIF boss Mohammed Bin Salman, aka the Butcher of Yemen, is not chairman of our club is because of questionable public image due to many bloody acts. A former associate of MBS called him a ‘’psychopath, with no empathy.’

No-one with a leading role in a dictatorship is clean. Yasir al-Rumayyan, the new non-executive chairman of Newcastle United, was ordered to seize 20 companies by Mohammed Bin Salman, one of which was a charter flight company which was used to fly the murderers of political opponent Jamal Khashoggi.

Like all fans we are ecstatic that Ashley has gone, but rolling out the red carpet for the Saudis is distasteful. The well-oiled NUFC PR machine is working overtime to win hearts and minds and you have to recognise their bare-faced cheek. The pledge to match the food bank donations of fans was a masterstroke, but in the circumstances of the regime deliberately causing a famine in a neighbouring country, is a sick joke.

MBS has waged a war in Yemen and the resultinghe famine is the direct result of the Saudi Arabian-led intervention and blockade. 1,500 schools were damaged and destroyed. Maybe fan’s groups can suggest that the new owners donate money to alleviate famine and rebuild schools in Yemen, caused by   the aggressive Saudi war where the weapons were supplied by UK companies?

After a racist and anti-Semitic incident at the game against Spurs, correctly condemned by football anti-racist groups, the club made a statement and called for fans not to be ‘culturally insensitive’ and stop dressing up in Arab gear. The equality and inclusion group Kick It Out had been planning to offer education workshops in Newcastle to explain how impersonating Arabs could be considered racist or culturally insensitive. Later the club backtracked on the statement. We really are through the looking glass with such mental gymnastics. Why haven’t groups like Kick it Out and Show Racism the Red Card condemned the racism and anti-Semitism of the Saudi state? On social media we saw a comment from a NUFC fanzine which asked, how can the Saudis be anti-Semitic if they are in business with people of a Jewish background? This is how sports-washing works. Outside of KSA the regime will get into bed with anyone if it helps their rebranding.

WILL ENGAGEMENT CHANGE THE SAUDIS?

Politicians and fans talk about ‘engagement’ and reason that dealing with the vicious regime will somehow help to change and liberalise them. Unfortunately, what we have here is a tail wagging the dog situation.

A disappointing aspect of the #NUFCTakeover has been the attitude of LP leaders in the region. It was excruciating to see Nick Forbes, leader of the city council laying out the red carpet for the regime and begging for an audience to talk about investment.

An important aspect of the sports-washing are the vague promises of investment. Politicians and ex-players assure us that Saudi blood money will be good for the region. The Saudi PR machine grinds on…..

It remains to be seen what investment comes into Tyneside, but all the perfumes and money of Arabia will not sweeten this deal or wipe away their crimes. NUFC fans will come to regret looking the other way. Changing the internal policies of the dictatorship is definitely not on the agenda. The goal of this mammoth effort in sports-washing is to change perceptions of their regime, to get people to look away from the beheadings, torture and dismembering of opponents and think about NUFC winning cups

The Saudi regime is a dictatorship which maintains its rule and influence in the region through a vicious state apparatus. The cuddly image of the benevolent new NUFC owners put out by the Evening Chronicle – Riyadh Daily, is for external consumption only.

The recent Tweet by the club in support of Josh Cavallo’s statement has been seized upon by people who believe ‘engagement’ with the homophobic regime can change them.

A powerful and inspirational message. Football is for everyone. Newcastle United is right with you, Josh.”

The football writer Barry Glendenning summed up many fan’s feelings on the hypocritical statement: “#freesuhail Three years in the Saudi jug and 800 lashes for being gay. Imagine one lash of a whip … now imagine 799 more.

In case anyone does not know, Suhail al-Jameel is a young gay Saudi who faces years in jail and 800 lashes for posting a topless selfie of himself on Twitter. We respectfully ask UNITED WITH PRIDE to reconsider their ambiguous response to the #NUFCTakeover by one of the most homophobic regimes in the world. Who do we stand with, people like Suhail al-Jameel or the Saudi dictators?

The club statement on Josh Cavallo was a hypocritical publicity stunt. This is how sport-washing works. It was a meaningless gesture to those who need our solidarity in KSA.

The new Saudi owner’s commitment to Rainbow Laces Day and the NUFC Women’s team is dependent on not mentioning the public flogging of LGBT+ activists and the jailing, sexual abuse and torture of women fighting for equal rights.

Activists in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East have no such illusions about ‘engagement’ as they know from bitter experience that it is simply impossible to engage with a regime that is consciously committing gross human rights violations.

DANGER OF NORMALISING SAUDI REGIME AND ITS POLICIES

Football has come along away as regards women’s and equal rights, anti-racism and pro-LGBT+ policies. Embracing the Saudis can put that progress in danger.

Thousands of people, including human rights activists in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East are watching developments at NUFC and we need to get the message out that not all NUFC fans are complicit in their oppression and we do not welcome the Saudi dictators to our club.

Saudi activists who stand up against oppression are NOT ’snowflakes’ but hard, like hailstones in the desert.

Faisal is withering. He says: “The pinkwashing is nice, isn’t it? So it is, ‘We are going to take money from those who torture us while wearing rainbow laces’? No, thank you. Not in our name.”

Zarah, a lesbian woman seeking asylum outside of Saudi Arabia, says: “We are not asking for sympathy or pity but we do ask for a voice. We just want our story to be heard as it really is. The truth is that it is heart-breaking to see people in the West who celebrate the people behind this takeover, who celebrate our oppressors. We see videos of people brandishing the Saudi flag or wearing a headdress. It just triggers a feeling of powerlessness.”

So, what is to be done about the Saudi dictatorship taking over our club? We should not celebrate the vicious oppressors of activists in Saudi Arabia and not be afraid to bring up the many human rights abuses of the new owners of NUFC and initiatives can be taken. WOR FLAGS should should fly some flags on match days which call for an end to oppression in KSA. Why not call for a minute’s silence at SJP the next time an LGBT+ activist is beheaded in KSA?

Political representatives, should be doing their job by holding the Saudis to account for their crimes. They should support the 51% Golden share model of fan led club ownership. Demand a genuine two sided debate on these questions in the Evening Chronicle-Daily Riyad, which has unfortunately become an enthusiastic conduit for Saudi dictatorship sports-washing propaganda.

Anti-racist and fans groups in football should be criticising the state sanctioned racism and anti-Semitism of the Saudi regime of which the new owners of NUFC are an inherent part.

Fanzines can play a role in looking for an alternative to NUFC being owned by such an abhorrent regime. Rather than accepting the rotten reality of fat cat football, which has no morals and double standards, NUFC fans can draw a line in the sand and say, this far and no further and become part of the solution by joining the fight to RECLAIM THE GAME!

NUFC fans should remember this is a club of the working class people of Tyneside and not a PR arm of a dictatorship.

Most of us were born Toon fans. We have collectively lived through the highs and lows of the last 52 years, since we last won something. Knowing in our heart of hearts, we are the greatest football supporters the world has ever known…..

For our loyalty and passion we deserve success. We deserve the ecstasy of seeing someone in a black and white shirt lifting a cup. Of course we do. But like this? No thanks. There is another way…

Fans who are interested in KICKING THE SAUDI DICTATORS OUT OF OUR CLUB AND RECLAIMING NUFC – Join us here

JOHN HIRD