Anyone with a scintilla of humanity is concerned by any human rights abuses. Those who do not have concerns about what goes on in this world, who have all levels of empathy removed from them are suffering from a worrying sociopathy.

A concern for the rights of those who maybe the victims of oppression, prejudice, torture or murder is a necessary facet of humanity.

That is the case if it involves our own country and foreign powers in North Korea, Russia, Egypt, Abu Dhabi, Qatar and of course … roll of the drums … Saudi Arabia.

It shouldn’t be to anyone’s surprise that the human rights record of Saudi Arabia hasn’t been catapulted into the full media glare following the completion of the long, drawn out takeover of Newcastle United by what I’ll refer to as “the consortium”.

As has been commented upon, the Newcastle United takeover tells us much about where football is in 2021 but perhaps is also a mirror to the UK’s values both in governmental and critically within the media and those who work within it too.

I have expected opprobrium to be poured onto the new Newcastle United that is in its infancy. I have expected it to take the form that has in honesty. It has been characterised by some journalists grand-standing and taking pot-shots at the easiest of targets … Newcastle United supporters, who it is largely claimed have some weird culpability because of our happiness at our club falling into the hands of those with ambition and our region potentially to be the beneficiaries of levels of investment not seen before. We wait and see what it will bring.

This is a curious position for the media to adopt, painting largely working class football supporters in the NE of England as the villains in this piece. That we have somehow failed in our dury as the guardians of the country’s moral conscience. It is frankly bizarre.

Let us look at the facts. We supporters played no role in the transaction. The decision to sell Newcastle United to the consortium was made by its previous owner, Mike Ashley.

As Greg Tomlinson (NUST) spoke to Newsnight, football supporters are not even part of the conversation about football ownership. The Newcastle United Supporters Trust played a full, enthusiastic and constructive role within the Rt Hon Tracey Crouch MP’s review of  how football ownership operates has been well documented. Indeed NUST have been picked out for special praise for their role. That has been somewhat missed in the rush to vilify the club’s support.

Newcastle United supporters via NUST have been campaigning, largely ignored about football ownership over the Ashley years.

Mike Ashley has been the chief beneficiary of the sale. To the tune of £305m! He made the decision to sell to the consortium regardless of all of the concerns held about human rights abuses etc. He was not persuaded he should forego £305m on the basis of the Saudis lamentable human rights record.

The lack of morality within this transaction rests with Mike Ashley. I have not read one word of condemnation. There appears to be an acceptance this is what would happen, that is part of nature … this is how a UK capitalist would behave, unencumbered by the morality expected from those who have been filmed celebrating because in post-austerity Britain, communities in a forgotten corner of the UK may get some pleasure from its football club. Indeed, there may be some much-needed regeneration where there is very little else on offer currently. Levelling up? Pfft.

Ashley gets off scot-free. Why is he dodging the criticism? Are we so inured to capitalists behaving in this way that it is so readily accepted? I’ll repeat, he did not have to accept the bid for £305m from what many consider to be a tyrannical regime.

He is the one whose bank balance has been increased by £305m this last week. Not the lads and lasses on #CANS in Strawberry Place last Thursday night.

Then there is the Premier League itself … their rules applied to allow the kind of investment it has permitted previously, most obviously at Man City and Chelsea. The Premier League formed as a breakaway from the rest of football 30 years ago and pimped around the world via TV ever since … sucking up global investment and allowing the rest of football to scrape around for pennies.

Then there is the media itself and there are certain journalists who have climbed to the moral high-ground to sit in judgement.

Here is one such example. Jonathan Wilson of The Guardian. Wilson is a fine writer. One of the best,though given to over-thinking stuff if he’ll forgive me that slight criticism. In the book case in the room where I’m typing this up, sit many of his books, all of which have added to my enjoyment and knowledge of the sport we all love.

Jonathan is the leading figure in the excellent Blizzard publication which brings marvellous publications to football fans who want more than click-bait from much of the football media.

Jonathan is also a native of the North East. He is from Sunderland and as you might expect, he supports his home-town club fervently. Good for him.

I believe Jonathan wrote for the excellent Sunderland fanzine, A Love Supreme as well as being one of its sellers outside Roker Park. Jonathan is a football man to his core and I highlight this example not to be vindictive or tribal but just to demonstrate what is going on with all of these articles of condemnation.

Jonathan has to make a living and sells his services to those who want to pay for them on terms he accepts.

Jonathan wrote for Arab News. His writing as ever, was excellent with all of the features I’ve come to admire in him – superbly written and informative.

Here some of it is here – Arab News – Jonathan Wilson –

Here are some details  about Arab News –

You will see that the links between Arab News on the Saudi state are well, let’s say very close. As close as PIF and the House of Saud? You decide.

So, in my opinion, Jonathan has an explanation to provide that while he can write this about Newcastle United and its supporters, he can have been in the employ of much the same society he vilifies- click here

Like many Black & Whiters, I have spent the last few days entertained by the mock-schlock outrage of some Sunderland supporters to the Newcastle United takeover.

That the hitherto unknown concern with human rights across Wearside has finally revealed itself, is one thing but that it is so breathtakingly ignorant of its own city is another.

Anyone would think a swathe of Red & Whiters are so bereft at the good fortune befalling their near neighbours, they are flailing around desperate for a comfort blanket to wrap themselves in. My advice would have been to go to ground and wait and see. But gobshites will be gobshites.  I should know.

Let me introduce Jonathan Wilson and indeed other fellow Wearsiders new to the Amnesty International Direct Debit scheme to BAE Systems Washington – click here 

As detailed in the enclosed links the BAE site in Washington employs over 300 people. They are well-paid, highly skilled jobs. Their business is largely defence technology. It is likely those contracts involve the advanced weaponry sold to Saudi Arabia. The plant was opened in 2012 by Princess Anne and celebrated as a great coup of inward investment. No-one really troubled themselves what the end product of all of this investment might be.

Would I being overly dramatic to suggest that the logistics developed at BAE Systems Washington have led to the ordnance dropped on the Yemen in what is a bitter and bloody war?

How does Jonathan feel about this? Will he support the relocation of this plant and its workforce out of his home city taking the economic benefits of that supply chain et al with it?

Will the human rights activists on Sunderland AFC Message-boards swing behind that campaign?

After all, I’d rather suggest the Geordies having a good football team is significantly less of a threat to civilians in Saudi bomb-sights than what is being manufactured up the road from the Stadium of Light.

Is Jonathan Wilson a hypocrite? Probably, but so are we all. There are other journalists working for media outlets who haven’t stirred at F1 in Saudi or the biggest boxing bouts in the world held out there.

We have not flinched at PIF investments in NHS research, Walt Disney, Uber, Starbucks and God knows what else.

We raise no objection to the critical defence and intelligence links between the UK and Saudi security services to keep us safe. Nor do we seriously object to the sale of billions in weaponry of which what is manufactured in Sunderland is just a fraction.

We don’t bat an eye to the lavish receptions set out to Prince Mohammed Bin Salman from the British Royal family or by the UK government swinging open the doors at Downing St or Chequers.

But all of that changes when Newcastle United, sitting on the north bank of the Tyne threatens to have a good football team.

Would anyone care to explain why?

Keep On, Keepin’ On …

MICHAEL MARTIN