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Newcastle supporters 97% in favour of takeover despite concerns over Saudi Arabia’s human rights record

Alex Hurst, Trust chair, said: ‘This survey shows that the appetite for change at Newcastle United is enormous’

Tom Kershaw
Saturday 25 April 2020 10:28 BST
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A Newcastle United Supporters Trust survey of over 3,000 fans found that 96.7% of fans are in favour of the club’s controversial takeover.

A consortium led by Amanda Staveley and backed by the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund are on the verge of completing a £300m buyout of current owner Mike Ashley.

The takeover is subject to the consortium passing the Premier League’s Owners’ and Directors’ Test, with Amnesty International raising concerns over Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and the potential for “sportswashing”.

Qatar-based broadcasters BeIN Sports, who have a £500m rights agreement with the Premier League, have also called for the disqualification of the takeover due to Saudi Arabia’s pirated beoutQ station illegally transmitting English top-flight matches.

If the takeover is sanctioned, the sovereign wealth fund – chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – will acquire an 80% stake in the club, while Staveley’s PCP Capital Partners and the Reuben brothers, David and Simon, will split the remaining stake.

In response to the concerns surrounding the takeover, the Newcastle United Supporters Trust conducted a survey of 3,397 fans, which found that the overwhelming majority were in favour of the deal being completed.

It stated that:

  • 96.7% of fans want the takeover
  • 52% of fans surveyed would return to St James’ Park under new ownership
  • 53.1% want fan representation on the board

Alex Hurst, Trust chair, said: “This survey shows that the appetite for change at Newcastle United is enormous and we would hope the alleged new owners recognise the passion for this takeover and the need for radical change in how the club is run.

“We have had no formal contact from any new owners at this time which is to be expected as a sale is not yet completed. We will continue to survey member thoughts on the club and how it should be run when a sale is completed and are hopeful of a strong relationship with new owners as soon as they have control of the club.

“We have spoken up for members this week in the media and told those organisations in touch with the Trust that the Trust has always judged owners of the football club on their record with the football club.

“It is not fair to ask Newcastle United fans to comment on matters which they have no power and we have said as much this week to media from around the world.”

A banner is held up by a fan (PA)

The Trust did also note that, despite the support for the takeover, many supporters did acknowledge concerns over Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.

“There was a theme for members who disapproved of the takeover happening in Q1, these were mainly around issues of Saudi Arabian involvement and concerns about human rights,” a letter sent to supporters read.

“Comments included people stating they do not want people with such a human rights record takeover our Newcastle United and concerns around ‘sportswashing’.

“Additionally, a number of members who stated they supported the prospective takeover but had some reservations about the human rights record of our prospective new owners. These responses highlight that relief felt by the majority of fans at the prospective end of the current owners’ tenure.”

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