Newcastle United opposition fans call to cancel friendly as manager hits back

Newcastle United's pre-season plans have been handed another unexpected twist.

Next week, Newcastle United will travel to Austria for a pre-season tour. Eddie Howe’s side will face 1860 Munich at the 1,500-capacity Saalfelden Arena in Austria on July 15.

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The Magpies are then set to face Mainz 05 at the Kufstein Arena on July 18.

But the arrangement of the match has not gone down well with sections of the Mainz fan base, who have called to cancel the match.

This is in protest to Newcastle being 80-per-cent owned by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment fund.

An open letter from the Mainz fans to their club read: “In an extensive and intensive process, Mainz 05 have given themselves a mission statement in which, among other things, democratic values ​​and an offensive attitude against exclusion and discrimination are central elements. The Supporters Mainz fully support these values.

“We are taking the planned match against Newcastle United in the forthcoming training camp as an opportunity to remind Mainz 05 of these values ​​in their mission statement.

Yasir Al-Rumayyan, Chairman of Newcastle United and PIF plays football on the pitch after the Premier League match between Newcastle United and Crystal Palace at St. James Park on April 20, 2022 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

“Newcastle United was acquired by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund PIF, which is chaired by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in late 2021. The motive for this was probably less the enthusiasm for football or the identification with the club Newcastle United than the so-called “sport washing” – the attempt to polish the image of Saudi Arabia by entering international football.

“We recall that Saudi Arabia is not only an absolute monarchy in which democratic participation of its citizens has no place, but a country in which basic human rights are systematically disregarded. Suppression of freedom of expression and religion, persecution of homosexuals, oppression of women, use of caning and the death penalty are part of the laws there.

“So Newcastle United is not just a football club, but a vehicle for asserting the interests of a regime that tramples on human rights and whose policies are diametrically opposed to the values ​​and mission statement of Mainz 05.

“At a time when authoritarian states, large corporations or billionaires are taking over international football in order to assert their interests, it is no longer possible to separate football and politics.

"With the decision to play a friendly against Newcastle United, Mainz 05 is sending a signal, and not a good one at that: This game sends out the signal that the values ​​of the mission statement are not binding when it comes to choosing opponents for friendly or friendlies go. With a game against Newcastle United, Mainz also actively offers the Saudi regime a stage and thus indirectly recognises it politically.

“We call on Mainz 05: Take a stand! Read your mission statement! Cancel the game against Newcastle United!”

As it stands, the match is still set to go ahead as planned.

And Mainz manager Bo Svensson has hit back at the fan protests, stating: “Whenever it comes to football, things become very inflated and become huge issues. How far are we going? Will we also then ban Disney films with our children?”

But this is not the first time Newcastle’s ownership has been criticised by opposing fans, nor will it be the last.