By Jamie Gardner, PA Chief Sports Reporter
The welcoming of a Saudi-led takeover of Newcastle by many of the club’s supporters is evidence of the “sickness at the heart of football”, according to a member of a key UK parliamentary committee.
The Magpies were sold to a consortium including Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund on October 7th, leading to scenes of wild celebration in the city.
The deal has been heavily criticised by groups such as Amnesty International, which has pointed to the country’s appalling human rights record.
A United Nations report said the Saudi state was responsible for the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the country’s consulate in Turkey in October 2018.
A declassified US intelligence report published in February concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman — the chair of the PIF — had likely approved the killing or capture of Khashoggi.
However, the PIF has given legally binding assurances, which have been accepted by the Premier League, that the Saudi state will have no control over the club.
Scottish National Party MP John Nicolson, who sits on the UK Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, said during a hearing: “I’m trying to imagine what it must be like to be Jamal Khashoggi’s widow, when her husband has been chopped up and murdered…. and she sees numpties dancing around in cod-Arabic dresses outside Newcastle United. That must be heart-rending.
“It made me as an outsider watching it think there was nobody who could have taken over that club — no matter the level of evil of the person who took over — that would have resulted in anything other than celebration for large numbers of Newcastle supporters.
“That’s a kind of sickness at the heart of football, isn’t it?”
The Newcastle United Supporters’ Trust has been contacted for comment by the PA news agency.
Club director Amanda Staveley said in an interview on October 7th, when the takeover was confirmed, that there was “clear separation” between the PIF and the Saudi state.