Newcastle United fans must get used to scrutiny – even if it’s steeped in hypocrisy

Newcastle United’s takeover getting the green light was always going to cause controversy – after all, even before the Premier League signed off on the deal, there had been plenty of scrutiny over the buy-out.

There are questions, and rightly, over the human rights issues, and then other concerns about how the deal was pushed through so quickly given just a week before, former owner Mike Ashley had his anti-competition case against the Premier League heard.

It’s said that the other 19 clubs in the top flight would like an emergency meeting to address concerns – with claims there are concerns over what the arrival of the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia could do to the image of the top flight.

Ironic given that six of those tried to break away and create a European Super League which would have destroyed the Premier League.

And then we have other owners of teams who are not happy – Karren Brady of West Ham for one, who in her latest column questioned Newcastle fans’ responses to the human rights issues.

She wrote: “Supporters interviewed about their view on the new owner being Saudi, with their — how shall we put it kindly? — dubious moral dilemmas, said this was an issue for another day.

“I suspect seeing off Ashley and welcoming an owner with a £320billion fortune may mean that day never comes for them.

“But what the rest of the Premier League, the football authorities and the Crouch review will make of it . . . well, that day will come, I’m sure of it.”

There are a few things wrong here but first, let’s make it clear, human rights abuses are abhorrent, but this is not the fight of Newcastle United fans, many of who feel uneasy about the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia.

It is not up to them who buys their club – the bottom line is this, The Premier League feel they got legally binding assurances that the Public Investment Fund would not be in charge of the club – and in turn, Amanda Staveley, one of the new co-owners of the club, is clear to point out that there is a clear degree of separation between the state and the Fund.

Whether you believe that or not is not the issue – for whatever case that has been put forward to prove that, has been accepted by the Premier League.

It is the Premier League who has put this through, not the fans, and it is their owners and directors’ test that needs reform, not the conscience of United fans.

And the other thing, the suggestion from Brady is that agreeing to sell to The Public Investment Fund is something Ashley perhaps should have resisted – or at the very least the fans should have done.

But a quick Google shows that co-owner of West Ham, David Sullivan, may have been just as quick to hand over his papers to a Saudi backed consortium if given the chance.

Back in 2016, Sullivan told the West Ham site, ” I want to reiterate that we, the current owners, have no desire to sell the club unless it is to somebody like the King of Saudi Arabia who can take it to a level we cannot ourselves hope to reach.”

Now, of course, his view on the situation may have changed – but it appears like any business owner if anyone with the right amount of money comes knocking, a conversation is likely to be had.

And if it indeed it was West Ham whose club had caught the eye of The Public Investment – would Brady put the same onus on her own fans as she has Newcastle to stand up and effectively reject the deal?

Who knows – but one thing is for sure, Newcastle fans are going to have to get used to a whole new level of scrutiny following this deal.

Now the richest club in the Premier League, everything that happens is going to be looked and picked at – and the fans will bear the brunt of that.

They have this weekend been subject to column after column – some writing that this is the beginning of the end of English football, and others openly suggesting they should have done something to stop the deal.

But if the UK government isn’t making a stand, if Facebook, Uber or Disney aren’t making a stand – and if million, perhaps billion, pound industries of Formula One and Boxing, aren’t making a stand against Public Investment Fund investment – then why are Newcastle fans being held up as cowardly for not doing so?

Call whataboutery, or whatever you like – but that is the reality.

What can United fans actually do about this issue? The responsibility falls on the shoulders much higher up the chain and much more powerful than those who stand on the terraces.

And for those football owners kicking up a fuss? I very much suspect that if a rich individual or group came knocking with a clear plan and money to take the club forward, while you make a nice profit – the morale high ground currently being taken might quickly shrink to nothing but a mole hill.

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