English football’s already wonky moral compass has been shattered by the Saudi takeover of Newcastle United.
It may be dressed up as an investment group but the truth is that the Magpies are now 80% owned by the sovereign wealth fund of a country which has a horrendous and brutal record on human rights, with executions of journalists and others at the hands of a dictatorial regime.
Big money from various dodgy quarters has bought success at top level in England for years now, but the Fog on the Tyne has become a soup of murk with this deal.
Politics and sport shouldn’t mix goes the old saying but this move has political ramifications for the game which should concern supporters of all clubs, including us in Scotland.
In Scotland, Dundee, Dundee United and Hibs are owned by Americans, while Celtic’s major shareholder is from the Republic of Ireland and Dunfermline have been acquired by a German group.
The game went global long ago, but this takeover is of a completely different magnitude from those and in a completely different and repugnant moral sphere.
It calls into question the principles of football and should repulse everyone who follows the beautiful game.
Football has often had a fraught relationship with decency, with issues of match fixing and gambling in the spotlight and racism, homophobia and sectarianism all currently under scrutiny.
Next year, the World Cup will be played in Qatar, where migrant workers from Bangladesh, India and Nepal, working on the stadia, have been subjected to appalling treatment.
Shocking living and working conditions, forced labour, unpaid wages, being left unable to leave the country and threats to their safety have all been documented by Amnesty International.
With a few honourable exceptions, football has disgracefully remained impassive and unmoved by these vile revelations.
Amnesty International has reminded the Premier League that Saudi Arabia’s record on human rights must be a factor in deciding whether the takeover of #NUFC by a Saudi-led consortium can go ahead.
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) October 7, 2021
Many who have rightly championed the fight against racism and sectarianism and homophobia in the game have developed a blind spot to the dreadful treatment dished out to some of the poorest workers in the world in Qatar.
Now, a Saudi regime which barbarically executes its citizens has been given the opportunity to appear on the world stage using an English Premier League football club as a play-thing, giving them a veneer of respectability while also offering the chance to upstage their Middle East rivals Qatar.
The Geordies have a strong working class tradition of solidarity and socialism, yet some have welcomed the takeover with open arms, believing that the investment will see them become one of English football’s top clubs.
Moral judgements have been dispensed with in the hope that a sleeping giant can be awakened from a long-running slumber.
— Liam Kennedy (@LiamJKennedy23) October 8, 2021
Where the funds are coming from has been conveniently brushed under the carpet by some supporters so desperate for success – and to be rid of the despised Mike Ashley – that the origin of the money coming into St James’ Park has been airbrushed from their minds.
Football is driven by big money at the top level but this should be a bridge too far for the sport.
The moral compass of the game has spun out of control and accusations of hypocrisy and double standards can be rightly levelled at football folk who accept this investment as justifiable.
Those in the game who’ve protested vociferously at other blatant wrongs cannot surely stand by and co-operate with this dreadful lack of judgement.