“Magic of football, which can transform Mohammed Ben Salman into prince charming”

LNewcastle United (NUFC) fans celebrated the event like a title, in front of their home at St James Park, but they were only celebrating the newfound hope of winning one for the first time since an FA Cup in 1955.

By authorizing the Saudi public investment fund to buy back 80% of the shares of the NUFC, after a refusal in April 2020 and long months of negotiations, the English Premier League has granted the club the privilege of passing under the flag of a Gulf state , after Manchester City (Abu Dhabi, 2008) and Paris-Saint-Germain (Qatar, 2012).

The joy of the Magpies supporters results in large part from the relief to see the departure of the previous owner, Mike Ashley, rich but stingy, whose reign (2007-2021) was marked by great sporting mediocrity. The Saudis will certainly be lavish, the English media evoking an envelope of 220 million euros from the next winter transfer window.

Football, reputations launderer

This is how the hopes of second-tier club supporters are based today: without the arrival of a providential savior able to spend massively, they know that their team is doomed to vegetate far from the European top, without any chance of to access.

Those of Newcastle believe so “Get their club back”. However, reactions to the plan for a private Super League in April strongly condemned the contempt of Premier League club owners for local audiences, who expressed their sense of dispossession.

The “Toon Army”, nickname of one of the most popular and fervent audiences in England, seems to have neither fear of this kind nor embarrassment towards the instrumentalisation of the club for the benefit of the policies of sportwashing of the Saudi regime.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Sport, a weapon of mass seduction for Saudi Arabia

Amnesty International UK has urged the Premier League to include respect for human rights in its criteria for approving new investors. The other nineteen clubs in the championship have, selon The Guardian, disavowed the decision and demanded an urgent meeting, fearing damage to the Premier League “brand”.

At its margins, football can be used to launder money. At its peak, it allows money to launder the reputation of entire states – “To wash away through sport, with the glamor of elite football, their catastrophic violations of human rights”, writes Amnesty.

How to fight against this magic of football, which can transform Mohammed Ben Salman, in particular accused of having ordered the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, into prince charming? The correspondent of World reported that a fan celebrated the news by wearing a djellaba and a crown prince’s mask…

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