The recent news of the soccer club, Newcastle United, being taken over by a Saudi Arabian-backed group has sent shock waves throughout the Premier League. The news was announced last Thursday on the club and Premier League media sites. The three-party consortium includes the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF), venture capital and private equity company PCP Capital Partners, and RB Sports and Media, according to CNN. While few will see the move as a saving grace for the soccer club, Saudi Arabia’s past with human rights can derail the club’s future.
A recent survey of the Newcastle United fans seem to be in favor of the change. The news has resonated among Newcastle supporters with a recent survey by the Newcastle United Supporters Trust showing that 94% of the 2,406 responses from members were in favor of the takeover. Despite the positive feedback, Saudi Arabia has a very dark background and people are not letting them forget it.
One of the biggest protesters to the recent news is Pride in Football, an LGBTQ alliance in support of equality in football. Pride in Football pushed for reform within the Premier League. After the news of the Newcastle United takeover, Pride in Football took to social media to protest.
“We have significant concerns, alongside human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, about the treatment of LGBT+ people in Saudi Arabia and other countries worldwide,” Pride in Football said in a statement on Saturday.
In an effort to calm the media and fans’ outrage, the Premier League make sure to clear up any confusion. The league has said that PIF, not the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is behind the takeover. The league is also investigating the owner’s and director’s objective to the Newcastle United. Newcastle United’s director Amanda Staveley has been on a media cleanse of sorts for the club as well. Staveley has reports of trying to save face and wash away Saudi Arabia’s human rights issues.
Despite the backlash, Pride in Football hopes to bring change and have their new owners rethink their process. It was just a few months before that the Premier Leagues launched “Rainbow Laces,” an initiative to promote issues within the LGBTQ community. The Premier League is keeping a close eye on Newcastle United and its workings.