Newcastle United – currently languishing second bottom of the Premier League – has just become “one of the world’s richest football clubs”, says Ian Watson on Football365. Thousands gathered outside St James’ Park stadium yesterday to celebrate the £305m buyout by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), some dressed in Saudi robes and waving beer cans in the air. Amanda Staveley, the British businesswoman who brokered the deal, insists the kingdom won’t be in direct control and bats away accusations of “sportswashing”. But supporters couldn’t care less. It’s been a bleak 14 years under Sports Direct supremo Mike Ashley: two relegations, stagnation and a vicious disregard for “one-club city” fans. Newcastle finally has a return “ticket to the elite”.
At what cost, says Barney Ronay in The Guardian. The chief operator behind the Saudi fund, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is – according to the CIA – personally responsible for ordering the murder and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. “The bone-saw boys are at the door” – the FA’s “fit-and-proper-person test” be damned. This isn’t about sport, or even money. It is about hijacking beloved community clubs as projector screens for whichever sovereign state happens to be passing. In Saudia Arabia, homosexuality is punishable by “public whipping or chemical castration”. How does that square with the Premier League’s claim to be “against all forms of discrimination”?