Newcastle United’s £300million-plus takeover has been completed at long last, meaning the end of Mike Ashley’s dismal tenure and the arrival of Saudi Arabia on Tyneside
The idea the consortium taking over Newcastle United will function without influence from the Saudi Arabian state takes some believing.
In fact, you would have to be born yesterday to believe it.
Which is why it will have a particularly bitter, nasty taste for many football fans and observers.
But the fact there is such unadulterated celebration on Tyneside tells you all that needs knowing about Mike Ashley’s ownership.
As far as Newcastle supporters are concerned, it is better the devil you don’t know.
Any devil, except him. Anyone but Ashley.
If that devil appears to have serious, serious wealth to invest in your team, then all the better.
If that devil is promising to make you big players in the move market, then all the better.
If that devil is going to spruce up St James’ Park and bring back a few legends, then all the better.
If that devil looks likely to give Steve Bruce the heave-ho, then all the better.
But that should not stop others being unhappy, already disgusted, by the takeover.
That should not stop Hatice Cengiz, partner of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, being sickened to the chief.
It was widely reported earlier this year that members of the hit squad which brutally butchered and killed Khashoggi, travelled on planes owned by the Public Investment Fund that is now assuming ownership of Newcastle United.
No problem getting to Southampton away, then.
No matter what the Premier League says, no matter what Amanda Staveley says, no matter what anyone connected with the deal says, there will be precious few people out there who will believe one of the grandest institutions in English football is not going to be, effectively, run by a state whose human rights record has drawn extensive horror.
And that includes Newcastle United fans.
But what does that say about the 14 years of Ashley?
In a broader sense, it will be pointed out there should be concerns about owners of clubs up and down the land and around the world.
Has anyone ever met a truly ethical billionaire? And are states seemingly involved in the running of other European clubs without human rights sin?
AFP via Getty Images)
There is an abundance of whataboutery, highlighting, for example, how freely other sports have been more than happy to take the Saudi Arabian sports-washing dollar. Boxing and golf, to name but two.
And if the United Kingdom is prepared to do business with the Saudis, why shouldn’t football? Etc, etc, etc.
Also, the Premier League insists there is a legally binding document that the new owners have signed which outlaws any state involvement. Fine.
But the fact is Newcastle United is being taken over by a consortium that has, at the very least, strong links with a regime that is accused of human rights abuses, amongst other crimes.
It is also a fact that, for a Newcastle United fan, if there is any grappling to be done with a moral conscience, there is only one outcome.
Better the devil you don’t know.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion on this but, as they celebrate and toast a Saudi takeover on the edges of the Tyne, one thing is clear.
For all of us who have no emotional involvement in a great club, we truly don’t know just how bad it has been.
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