Leeds United fan group vow to highlight concerns of Newcastle United's Saudi Arabian takeover

Leeds United’s LGBTQ+ fan group has vowed to highlight concerns over the Saudi Arabian takeover of Newcastle United ahead of the Toon Army’s visit to Elland Road on Saturday.

By Anthony Harwood
Friday, 21st January 2022, 11:45 am

It followed a call by Amnesty International for fans to raise human rights issues jn the desert kingdom whenever teams play against The Magpies, now “the richest club in the world”.

The £305m takeover by the Arab country’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) has already sparked protests at Crystal Palace and Brighton when they played against Newcastle at home last year.

At Palace a banner was held up which took aim at the Premier League for waving the deal through.

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CONCERNS: Highlighted by Leeds United’s LGBTQ+ fan group over the Saudi Arabian takeover of Newcastle United. Photo by Visionhaus/Getty Images.

It showed a man in Arab head-dress with a bloodied sword alongside a checklist of alleged offences which included : ‘Terrorism, beheading, civil rights abuses, murder, censorship and persecution”.

The Saudi owners have a poor record on human rights, particularly in relation to women and the LGBT+ community.

Mick Ward, of the Leeds United LGBTQ+ fan group, Marching Out Together, said that while no specific protests are planned for Saturday, the organisation would keep up the pressure on Newcastle’s owners.

‘’We continue to raise our concerns over this takeover and work with our own membership and fans from other clubs on the issues raised.

‘We support United with Pride (the NUFC LGBT+ fan group) in their work to bring about change and influence from within their club.

“We will use the negative example of this takeover to ensure that our own club, Leeds United, continue to work with us in a very positive way to make Elland Road, and the wider LUFC organisation, supportive of LGBTQ+ fans, staff and players”.

At Brighton protestors highlighted the case of a gay man, Suhail Al-Jameel, imprisoned in Saudi Arabia.

The 25-year-old was jailed two years ago for posting a picture on social media of himself shirtless and wearing leopard-print shorts.

The popular gay influencer, with 170,000 followers on Twitter, said he was later charged with sharing nude photos online and faces three years behind bars.

He later warned gay people to stay away from Saudi Arabia saying: “There is no place for you here, it is illegal to be who you are and it is sad”.

The Newcastle protests followed a call by Amnesty International for fans to let their voices be heard whenever they played The Magpies.

Felix Jakens, Amnesty International UK’s Head of Campaigns, said: “Football has its own issues with racism and other hate speech, but fans have a perfect right to voice concerns about serious human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia.

“The greater the spotlight on Saudi human rights violations, the better.

“If fans around the country are speaking about Saudi beheadings, about alleged Saudi war crimes in Yemen or the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, then that’s a useful way of getting basic facts about Saudi Arabia’s appalling human rights record out into the wider world.

“One irony, of course, is that no-one in Saudi Arabia could possibly hope to hold up a banner denouncing human rights abuses in the Kingdom without risking a long jail sentence.

“Though the Newcastle buyout is clearly part of the Saudi authorities’ long-term attempt to sportswash the country’s image, it’s fairly predictable that the effect in the short term has been to trigger greater discussion of human rights abuses in the country.

“Greater awareness of Saudi human rights issues is extremely welcome, and we hope it can lead to sustained pressure for much-needed reforms.”

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