My late brother was a Newcastle United fan all of his adult life. Based in London, he would travel all over England to the ‘away’ games; and the journeys up to the ‘Toon’ for a Saturday match were taken with the fervour of visiting a shrine. He was, in the words he used, “just another Newcassel fan; nothing special”.
But I wonder if my brother was still alive, if he would have been, in spirit at least, cheering the result of the Saudi Arabian buy-out of his treasured club? We all saw the pictured fans, one even wearing a black-and-white checkered tea towel as a headdress, as a tribute to the new owners: we saw the cheering drunken shower parading at the stadium: all laying homage to the piles of Saudi cash reputed to be heading towards St. James’ Park.
And that last sentence really says it all. A football team, living on the thinning shreds of a past glory, losing consistently with little investment on either the grounds, or the team. A billionaire owner who just wants to recoup his outlay, and maybe make a few more millions; ties up with the leader of a Nation which goes against so many of the ideals which we in the West consider normal that Saudi Arabia appears to be almost alien. The new Leader, Mohammed bin Salman, the head of the Sovereign Wealth fund which has provided 80% of the £300 million purchase price, is supposed to be moving his country towards the West.
I wonder if “Moving towards the West’ means dropping plans to murder any more journalists who disagree with MBS, as he likes to be known? I wonder if the average Geordie ‘Toon’ fan knows or even cares that MBS planned the abduction, murder and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Turkey’s Istanbul? He was persuaded to enter that building to obtain a document confirming his divorce, to that he could marry. He was drugged, suffocated, then his body was dismembered by the use of a bone hacksaw, the remains smuggled out for dispersal.
The buy-out was confirmed by the Premier League, with MBS being confirmed as being a ‘Fit and proper person’ to head the buy out consortium. I just wonder if the Premier League has ever read anything apart from the Sport back pages, and their bank statements?