Amnesty International labels Saudi takeover bid at Newcastle United 'sportswashing'

A Saudi takeover of Newcastle United would be "sportswashing, plain and simple" according to human rights body Amnesty International.

Monday, 27th January 2020, 2:35 pm
General view of St James's Park.

Newcastle are understood to be in talks with a consortium which features the Saudi Arabian Sovereign Wealth Fund, controlled by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The Arab state has taken an increasingly high profile in global sport recently, staging Anthony Joshua's heavyweight boxing match against Andy Ruiz last month as well as Spain's Super Cup.

Amnesty sees this as an attempt to use sport to clean up its image, describing the country's human rights record as "abysmal".

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"It's not for us to say who should own Newcastle, but players, backroom staff and fans alike ought to see this for what it is - sportswashing, plain and simple," Amnesty's UK head of campaigns Felix Jakens said.

"Given the deluge of investment in sport we've seen from Saudi Arabia recently, a takeover of Newcastle United wouldn't come as a major surprise.

"Saudi Arabia is well-known for its attempts at 'sportswashing' - trying to use the glamour and prestige of top-tier sport as a PR tool to distract from the country's abysmal human rights record.

"Under the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, there's been a sweeping human rights crackdown - with numerous peaceful activists jailed, including Loujain al-Hathloul and other brave women's rights defenders.”

It added: “The sportswashing effect can be countered if those involved are willing to do so.

“Staff and fans at Newcastle United should familiarise themselves with the dire human rights situation in Saudi Arabia and be prepared to speak out about it."