I was delighted when Mike Ashley sold our club. I hope that everyone knows that the celebrations were as much for that, and his departure, than they were for who our new owners are.

My biggest bugbear about the outcry toward our new ownership is that Newcastle fans are singled out. I see no one going after a governmental angle as to why we as a country do such lucrative deals with the Saudi Arabians. I see no comeback on the Royal Family who have welcomed many of the Saudi controlling family into their palaces and homes. I assume all of these critics will be canceling their Disney + subscriptions and never watching Star Wars again, or refuse to use an Uber again. They’ll cancel their Facebook account or refuse to fly on a Boeing plane. The list is endless.

The retort always seems to be: “what are you going to do about this?“

Well, nothing. I’m not a politician. I can have my own personal protest, but I can do nothing about the root cause of this issue and nor should I. Others opened this trapdoor. It is their mess to clean up and it runs far deeper than 11 people kicking a bag of air into a net. What isn’t talked about is the likelihood of these people also investing in the region as well as the club. Something which politically hasn’t happened often recently. There are bigger upsides than just a rich football team.

“There’s a difference, you’re supporting these people. I’m just using their products”.

This is a fair argument. I find the people waving Saudi flags and dressing in fake Kaffiyah (the headdresses worn) really quite offensive. Supporting these people, and supporting my team however are two different things. I did it when I didn’t like the previous owner, and it is something I will do now. I will not be forced to be ashamed of supporting my football club. A city I love despite not being from the area. I have friends there. I have great memories there. I fell in love with football there. Nothing will change how I feel about the club and the city itself.

There is something though, which I can’t shake. Something that is pulling me back from being liberated. In doing some reading around the Saudi controlling family, there is a lot to be concerned about and that is the thing which is holding me back. The way women are treated is dreadful, yet is quite tame in comparison to the way that migrant workers are treated, especially those who have been stuck in the country during the covid crisis. The allegations made toward the Saudi governing family in the conflict with Yemen allegedly includes the use of child soldiers, and white phosphorus which burns skin to the bone. I just can’t let that go. And this is just scratching the surface.

I recognise the argument that the UK and US sold the weapons and other tools of war (including the white phosphorus) to the Saudi Arabians to conduct these conflicts, so who are we to criticise them when the UK are part of the problem? It’s a fair point, but having a limited response to this because YOU AND I aren’t part of this problem, doesn’t shake my personal feeling that I still don’t have to condone this, even if the government and Royal Family can.

To move this back to football, nothing will change how I feel about the club. When someone scores a winning goal, that irreplaceable moment, surrounded by fellow fans, will never go. Moreover I will never tell anyone else how to support the football club. I will however question how we support the owners of the club. We should all be prepared for these questions, be it in the pub with our pals, to our family or kids and we should be prepared to answer those questions to ourselves too. With that in mind, I’d urge anyone reading this, who took a Saudi flag to the match or wore a tea towel over the head to celebrate, to read a few articles around this and our new owners. If you still feel happy waving the flag and going in “fancy dress”, then that’s your decision. But don’t do it blind. We need to be better than that.

My hope, is that we as a region and as fans can encourage the owners to see how other countries treat different groups of people. I hope that having a woman in a position of power and responsibility at the football club is the first step to understanding from the owners perspective, that women can and should be in these roles. That women should be able to participate without question, in daily life. I hope we can push for further equality in the club and promote other facets of the club, such as our LGBTQ+ community. I hope all of this has an impact on the owners and by getting them around the table, we can change their outlooks. This can benefit both parties, both on the football pitch and in day to day life in places outside of the UK.

My immediate concession is that I will be continuing to boycott the club financially. No spending money in the club shop or buying shirts etc. The hardest thing is buying tickets or not. I can’t honestly see a day where I commit to never going to St. James’ Park ever again. Maybe just away games for the time being and a once a season visit “home”.

We should be prepared for debate. Questions. Discourse and uncomfortable conversations. We did not ask for any of this, and that is a very important point. But we can measure our responses to demonstrate an understanding of the position we are in. Other fans of other clubs, and people who have no knowledge or interest in football will now form an opinion on us, and that is fine. So long as we ourselves know what we are doing and why. My final point on this, is for supporters of other clubs. Don’t believe what sky sports news tells you. Talk to fans of the club. People who have been there for a long long time and have seen more than Saudi Arabia and Ashley. Don’t judge our whole fanbase on idiots with tea towels. I want to engage and learn more and discuss this. Let us do that, and learn to have an educated view point yourself.

I will never stop supporting the club as an institution, or the team. Nothing will change how I feel about the city, it’s people and the players who wear those stripes. I think this may have changed how I feel about club football though, and that is something which deeply hurts.

 Dai Rees @colemans_dream