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27 Jan, 2020 17:46

'Sportswashing, plain and simple': Human rights watchdog Amnesty slams Saudi consortium bid for EPL side Newcastle United

'Sportswashing, plain and simple': Human rights watchdog Amnesty slams Saudi consortium bid for EPL side Newcastle United

A proposed consortium takeover of Newcastle United by a group controlled by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been criticized by Amnesty, who claim that the move is aimed at 'sportswashing' the country's human rights record.

The club's owner, Mike Ashley, is understood to be considering a £340 million ($391 million) offer to take control of the Premier League side, with Ashley conducting negotiations via a Dubai-based financier. He is thought to be seeking a deal which will allow him to retain a 10% stake in the club he has been involved with since 2007.

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The move, coupled with other recent moves into the global sports world such as the recent hosting of the rematch between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz, is representative of more sinister motives though, claim Amnesty, who say that the region is getting involved with sport in order to gloss over what they perceive as repeated human rights abuses in the country. 

"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," said Felix Jakens, UK head of campaigns for Amnesty. 

"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 glamor and prestige of top-tier sport as a PR tool to distract from the country’s abysmal human rights record."

Jakers goes on to state several incidents linked to the Saudi regime, such as the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which was allegedly conducted by the regime. 

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"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," he continued. 

"There’s been a blatant whitewash over Jamal Khashoggi’s grisly murder, there are continuing concerns over Saudi hacking, and the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen has a bloody record of launching indiscriminate attacks on homes and hospitals.

"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."

Khashoggi was assassinated at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018, with the official line on his death being that he was murdered by 'rogue agents' who were attempting to return him to his native Turkey.