The controversial Newcastle United kit move which has highlighted Saudi links
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Leaked photographs of the club’s home shirt for the 2022/23 shirt were published online this week. Fans, as usual, had their say on the design, the thickness of the stripes and the trim.
However, images purportedly showing the club’s new alternate strip attracted far more attention on Tyneside – and elsewhere. Even former MEP Nigel Farage had his say on the white and green-trimmed jersey, which resembles the Saudi national team jersey.
The initial response was mixed among United fans. Many didn’t see what the fuss was about, as the club has previously had a white and green strip.
However, the club wasn’t then 80%-owned by the Public Investment Fund (PIF), Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund.
Others questioned the move, which will bring the club’s ownership back into the spotlight seven months after it was eventually sold by Mike Ashley. PIF had had to prove that the club would not be run by the Saudi state before the takeover was passed by the Premier League.
It’s been suggested that the design move will see the club sell a large number of shirts in the Gulf kingdom, which has a population of almost 35million. This could in turn fund expenditure on the team.
The leak came as a Companies House update confirmed that Majed Al Sorour, chief executive officer of Gold Saudi, had been appointed to the club’s board following months of speculation.
Saudi Arabia, according to Al Sorour, is aiming to become a “global destination for golf”.
PIF is funding the controversial new LIV Golf series, which has been criticised by Amnesty International, an organisation which has long drawn attention to the country’s human rights record. It accused the state of "sportswashing” during the takeover process.
Whoever signed off the shirt design will have been fully aware of the optics of the move, and head coach Eddie Howe no doubt face more uncomfortable political questions once the kit is formally unveiled.
Howe, of course, is more comfortable speaking about football. United’s head coach wants to see Newcastle become a global destination for “world-class” footballers – and PIF can make this happen.
As a result, many fans are quite happy with a white and green change top.