On Thursday night these supporters took to the streets around St. James’ Park in an outpouring of elation after it was announced that the vilified Mike Ashley would be stepping down as owner of the football club, to be replaced by the SIF, now the game’s richest owners. Whilst questions about the morality of the incumbent Saudi regime are not unjustified, football is too far gone to suddenly instate its own set of political values. Look at the most recent Champions League Final between Chelsea and Manchester City - it indicates that football is a game in which success comes through investment, and to allow such individuals to propel their clubs to success before shutting the door behind them would be unjust. The governing of football has fundamentally changed and to interfere upon political grounds would be an overexertion of its governing bodies’ powers.
Regardless of the owners, the long-suffering Newcastle fans can now see a light at the end of the tunnel as their team heads towards reinstating itself as one of England’s biggest football clubs.
I'm not one for pithy sports sentiment, so maybe that's why I'm not too moved by the prospect of Newcastle winning the next football tournament or whatever. What I am concerned about is the dire human rights record of its new owners, the Saudi royal family, via the public investment firm. It's not exactly news that they haven't been the greatest defender of human rights, torturing and executing journalists, bombing Yemeni civilians and treating an entire class of residents as modern slaves, not to mention their horrific record on women's rights. Regardless of how horrible the previous owners were, should we stand for this sports washing?
Something I think gets overlooked on the other hand, however, is the fact that the UK itself isn't exactly clean here. Forget the brutal colonial history of the British empire, even more recently the UK has been rife with human rights violations of prisoners and migrants alike. Who sells the Saudis the weapons and bombs they use to commit their worst atrocities? At the end of the day, as sordid as it is, perhaps it is only natural that the Saudis invest in England’s favourite distraction. Capitalism has never had qualms over spilt blood.