Sunderland Lib Dem councillor brands Newcastle United takeover a ‘dark day for English football’

A Lib Dem Sunderland councillor has claimed that the Premier league “should hang their heads in shame” over the Saudi-backed takeover of Newcastle United.

Thursday, 7th October 2021, 9:02 pm

Sunderland Liberal Democrat councillor for Grindon and Thorney Close, Stephen O’Brien, has hit out at the Premier League over their approval of the Saudi-backed takeover of Newcastle United.

Throughout the 18-month long takeover saga, many issues have been raised about human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, in particular against women and LGBT+ people.

Cllr O’Brien has stated that takeover appears to more financially driven rather than caring about people’s human rights.

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Cllr Stephen O'Brien has branded the Saudi-backed takeover of Newcastle United as a "dark day for English football".

He said: “Whilst I can understand that Newcastle fans are glad to see the back of Mike Ashley, this is a dark day for English football.

“The Premier League should hang their heads in shame for rolling out the red carpet for a brutal dictatorship which persecutes women, LGBT+ people and minorities.

Amnesty International UK have claimed that the takeover is “an extremely bitter blow for human rights defenders”.

The chief executive officer Sacha Deshmukh said: “We can understand that this will be seen as a great day by many Newcastle United fans.

“But it’s also a very worrying day for anyone who cares about the ownership of English football clubs and whether these great clubs are being used to sportswash human rights abuse.

“In our assessment, this deal was always more about sportswashing than it was about football, with Saudi Arabia’s aggressive move into sport as a vehicle for image-management and PR plain for all to see.

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“This will be an extremely bitter blow for human rights defenders and others suffering persecution in Saudi Arabia who will be well aware that this takeover is partly about diverting attention from their plight.

“Our call on the Premier League remains the same – it urgently needs to strengthen its owners’ and directors’ rules to make them human rights-compliant and prevent those implicated in serious human rights violations from buying their way into English football.”

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