Human rights activists expressed disbelief Saturday that police were investigating a banner opposing the Saudi takeover Newcastle United.
The probe into Crystal Palace fans’ decision to highlight the Gulf state’s human rights atrocities was described as ‘remarkable’.
The banner accused the Saudi regime, backers of the multi-million-pound takeover, of murder, terrorism and beheadings and took a swipe at the Premier League’s owners’ and directors’ test.
The Holmesdale Fanatics, a Crystal Palace fan group, met at Newcastle’s Saudi owners.
Directors Amanda Staveley, Mehrdad Ghodoussi, were both present at Selhurst Park
‘The banner is the type of cutting political satire that the UK can rightly be proud of,’ Nicholas McGeehan, director of human rights consultancy FairSquare, said.
‘The Crystal Palace fans who made it deserve nothing but credit. We should not be repressing our hard-fought rights and freedoms to spare the feelings of the Saudi state or the Newcastle fans who desperately want to believe that criticism of the Saudis’ human rights abuses is racist.’
The banner featured caricatures of Richard Masters, chief executive of Premier League, and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (chair of the investment fund that bought Newcastle).
‘It clearly attributes the abuses to the Saudi state and not to Saudis in general,’ McGeehan said.
‘But if people are going to be offended when people satirise that in a creative way, there is nothing for the police to be investigating.’
Police said they had received complaints the mural was ‘offensive’. ‘Officers are carrying out enquiries,’ said Croydon Metropolitan Police. ‘Allegations of racist abuse will be taken seriously.’
The Holmesdale Fanatics, a Crystal Palace fan group, condemned Newcastle’s recent takeover and displayed the banner in the stands during the match between the two sides.
Newcastle and Palace played out a 1-1 draw at Selhurst Park. However, the visitors earned their first Premier League goal of their new era. However, the most notable action was on the pitch.
Newcastle’s Saudi-led owners were the subject a protest by a section Palace fans. They criticized the Premier League’s decision not to allow the takeover and called attention to the actions taken by the Saudi regime.
The statement stated that the ‘Saudi-led takeover of Newcastle has been widely condemned and angered. It is clear that the P.I.F serves as a front to the tyrannical Saudi regime. Premier League made a mockery out of its own Owners and Directors’ test by endorsing this.
“The Premier League has chosen to do business with one the most bloody and oppressive regimes in this world, and has thus endorsed this deal.
‘A country controlled and controlled by fear, where women are second-class citizens, homosex partnerships banned, journalists silenced or imprisoned or killed, and dissidents’ brutally persecuted now has an advantage in our national game.
‘To give the thumbs up to this deal when the Premier League promotes the women’s sport and inclusive initiatives such rainbow armbands is hypocritical and demonstrates that the League’s soulless agenda in which profits trump all is an example of the League’s hypocrisy.
Holmesdale Fanatics lambasted the Premier League’s total hypocrisy’ for allowing this takeover
‘Newcastle is now being used as a team to sportswash the blood of corrupt governance. Deluded fans should consider this reality when singing about ‘getting their club back.
“We are blessed to live in a country like this. We can proudly display it without fear. Many people in Saudi Arabia would love to have those banners.
Newcastle advised fans not to wear Arabic attire to matches earlier in week, after hundreds of supporters did the same at St. James’ Park against Tottenham in their first match after the takeover.
Kick It Out announced they were planning to meet Newcastle, and encourage fans to refrain from wearing tea towels on the heads in celebration of their new owners.
Newcastle has retracted their statement about Muslim fans attending matches wearing Arabic clothing
The club stated that they asked supporters not to wear traditional Middle East-inspired or Arabic headcovers at matches.
They have since retracted that statement in a new statement. It seems that the club’s new owners see fans’ attire as a warm welcome, and a way to show support.
The club stated that fans who had worn culturally traditional clothing including head covers have been part of the welcome.
“Those who wish support the club by wearing appropriate culturally inspired clothing should feel free do so as they please. We welcome all.
“To reiterate what we have said before, neither the club nor its owners were offended that attire was worn, and we appreciate the overt statements made by our great fans of support and acceptance.