I’m enjoying the end of the Mike Ashley era as I’ve been a Newcastle United supporter for most of my life and I will hold on to the euphoria for days.
However, it is also a time to reflect; as it will be difficult for me and perhaps a significant minority to support a Newcastle United acquired by the Saudi Arabia PIF (Public Investment Fund); an agency wholly owned by the government of Saudi Arabia.
When ‘The Mag’ published my opinion on a PIF takeover in early April 2021, around a hundred people responded.
The thrust of some of the comments was in the direction of “… a lot of people take the Saudi money, so why shouldn’t we? all about money .. ‘and so on.
At the risk of being called Mother Theresa again, I don’t see it that way.
The association I’ve been supporting for fifty-five years and the loyal supporters I know are better than that. Perhaps many supporters don’t care where the money comes from – but a minority do.
Comments on my April filing also cast doubt on my reference as a supporter. I reply that I started helping United in the middle years of Joe Harvey’s management. I worked part-time at Woolworth so I could rarely afford the turnstile price. Undaunted, my friends Ian, Claire and I became United’s “Golden Goal” salespeople at every home game. The price for us was free entry to Leazes End. Happy Days.
But with the acquisition by the Saudi Arabia PIF, my unwavering support for Newcastle United has now been put on hold by a roller coaster ride through the ups and downs of the club. I know that I am not alone in the fact that it is too far to support a club that has now become a cog in a government institution of an authoritarian regime.
Before readers leave comments; I would ask you to remember that the regime’s values are stupidly at odds with those for which many generations of British men and women have fought so hard. It is said that corruption in Saudi Arabia is systemic and endemic; and it is true that political parties and national elections are not allowed. The state is an “absolute monarchy” and its handling of human rights, especially women’s rights, is deplorable. Some will say that attention will be diverted to human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia as Saudi Arabia allows PIF to “sportswash” in the Premier League? I would say the club has swapped one authoritarian owner for another.
Get well soon, Mike Ashley, of course. However, I firmly believe that the Saudi Arabia PIF honeymoon and its aftermath could end sooner than people might think, possibly in exasperation. Oddly enough, it could make Mike Ashley look like a saint.
I’ll keep an eye on United.
Time will tell, but I very much hope that one day someone with a moral compass will own the best football club in the Northeast and make it a club we can all be proud of again for all of us.