MPs blast Newcastle United fans for wearing tea towels after Saudi takeover

MPs blast Newcastle United fans for wearing tea towels after Saudi takeover
MPs blast Newcastle United fans for wearing tea towels after Saudi takeover

Newcastle United supporters were today slammed by an MP as 'numpties' for 'dancing around in cod Arabic headdresses' outside St James' Park after their football club's controversial Saudi-backed takeover.

John Nicolson, Scottish National Party MP for Ochil and South Perthshire, told a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee hearing in London today that the fans 'just did not care what Saudi Arabia's human rights abuse was'.

He said his thoughts were with Hatice Cengiz, the widow of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, saying the scenes of celebrations since the takeover was announced on October 7 must have been 'heart-rending'.

Around 80 per cent of the money for the £305million takeover has been provided by Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (PIF), whose chairman is the kingdom's crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The PIF is run by 36-year-old Mr Bin Salman, the kingdom's de-facto ruler – and he has been accused of ordering the kidnap, torture and assassination of Mr Khashoggi in Turkey in 2018, but denies any involvement.

Meanwhile it emerged today that anti-racism organisation Kick It Out is planning talks with Newcastle to discourage fans from wearing tea towels on their heads in celebration of the club's new Saudi owners. 

Hundreds of supporters donned home-made head-dresses for the PIF's first game in charge against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday in a spectacle that dismayed Kick It Out and influential Football Association figures. 

Kick It Out has been collating reports of anti-discriminatory behaviour from the weekend's fixtures, and are waiting to discover if there were any specific complaints of incidents at Newcastle before contacting the club.

But MailOnline understands that the Premier League has not had a single complaint about the matter. It is not yet clear whether any complaints have been made to Kick It Out, the Football Association or Newcastle United. 

Newcastle fans don home-made head-dresses at St James' Park before their game against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday

Newcastle fans don home-made head-dresses at St James' Park before their game against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday

Fans of Newcastle United dress up prior to the Premier League match against Tottenham Hotspur at St James' Park on Sunday

Fans of Newcastle United dress up prior to the Premier League match against Tottenham Hotspur at St James' Park on Sunday

Newcastle United fans dress up and wave black and white flags and banners before Sunday's match against Tottenham

Newcastle United fans dress up and wave black and white flags and banners before Sunday's match against Tottenham

Kick It Out is now likely to offer education workshops to fans to explain how wearing tea towels could be considered racist

Kick It Out is now likely to offer education workshops to fans to explain how wearing tea towels could be considered racist 

Newcastle United fans wear fancy dress on Sunday ahead of their first game after the Saudi takeover

Newcastle United fans wear fancy dress on Sunday ahead of their first game after the Saudi takeover

Kick It Out is now likely to offer education workshops in Newcastle to fans to explain how wearing tea towels in an attempt to impersonate Arabs could be considered racist, offensive, or culturally insensitive. Senior figures at the FA are also concerned by the situation, and may become involved if it is not dealt with by the club.

The foreign takeover of yet another Premier League team has seen Newcastle become one of the richest clubs in the world because the PIF has assets of almost £300billion. This is expected to increase to £730billion by 2025. 

Premier League sides vote to block sponsorship deals linked with club owners amid concerns

Premier League clubs have acted to temporarily stop teams agreeing sponsorship deals linked to their owners following the Saudi-backed takeover of Newcastle.

The decision was taken at an emergency meeting yesterday amid concerns that Newcastle's new owners could sign lucrative deals with Saudi state-owned companies. A one-month ban on deals linked to club owners has been introduced to allow further debate.

Newcastle voted against the ban and Manchester City abstained, with both questioning the legality of the process. The other 18 Premier League clubs supported the move. The Premier League declined to comment.

Premier League financial fair play rules allow clubs to make maximum losses of £105million over a rolling three-year period. Artificially inflated commercial deals are seen as one way of increasing club revenues to allow them to navigate financial fair play rules and spend more than allowed.

Several major European clubs have sponsorship deals linked to their owners. Etihad, the airline of Abu Dhabi, sponsor Manchester City's stadium, training complex and shirts. City's Abu Dhabi owners took control of the club in 2008 and have helped them become the dominant force in English football over the last decade.

A working party - comprising a cross-section of clubs - is to be set up to investigate what, if any, changes should be made to the striking of lucrative sponsorship deals. Newcastle have been asked whether they would like to be on it.

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Critics had tried to block the move so 'human rights issues' in the Gulf state could be addressed, and Amnesty International said the takeover was directly linked to the Saudi government.

During the DCMS hearing today, Mr Nicolson spoke to two witnesses over the media coverage of major sporting events - News Media Coalition director Andrew Moger and BBC Sport director Barbara Slater.

The MP said: 'There were Newcastle United supporters who just did not care what Saudi Arabia's human rights abuse was.

'I am trying to imagine what it must be like to be Jamal Khashoggi's widow, when her husband has been chopped up and murdered on the instructions of the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia and she sees numpties dancing around in cod Arabic headdresses outside Newcastle United. On a personal basis for her that must be heart-rending.'

He added: 'Journalists who pointed that out suffered enormous abuse. It made me as an outsider think, there was nobody who could have taken over that club, no matter the level of evil of the person who took over that club, that would have resulted in anything other than celebration for large numbers of these Newcastle United supporters. That's

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