The ties between Newcastle United and Saudi Arabia are clearly getting stronger. On top of sponsoring the club and making the third kit green, Saudi Arabia have played their friendly games at St James' Park pretty much because they can.
As some Newcastle fans and city dwellers gathered to protest against Saudi ahead of the game against Costa Rica, some other Newcastle fans wore the green kit, approached the protesters with their arguments and then entered the stadium to cheer on the Saudi Arabia national team.
Newcastle United fans confronted the sport washing protest group outside St James Park vlog will be on the channel tomorrow— Adam Pearson (YT) ⚫️⚪️ (@AdamP1242) September 8, 2023
The “NUFC fans against sports washing” refused to be interviewed when asked by me #NUFC pic.twitter.com/56bI9T6ysH
Quite a few voices on social media were left stunned by how some Newcastle fans have fully absorbed the club's new owners as they wrote.
@AnnieEaves: "Geordie kids draped in Saudi flags, wearing Saudi themed Newcastle United shirts, going to watch Saudi Arabia at St James’ Park, arguing outside to defend the Saudi state.
"Amazing how quickly a football club and surrounding community can be swallowed up, conditioned, and used."
@HITCSevens: "Me, wearing my Saudi themed Newcastle shirt, on my way to cheer on Saudi Arabia at St James’ Park with my shiny new ‘I ❤️ MBS’ hat on: Something about this feels wrong… I know what it is, it’s those damn protestors!"
@burns_euan: "It's all so bleak, children draped in Saudi Arabia flags. Remember though, there's no link between the state and Newcastle, it's just a coincidence that Saudi Arabia 1-3 Costa Rica was played at St. James' Park."
@gamray: "Hang on, Newcastle fans actually went to watch a Saudi Arabia friendly at St James Park? How empty does your life have to be to do that?"
Who are the sport washing protest group
The group protesting against Newcastle is called NUFC Fans Against Sportswashing. They staged a silent protest against the club’s Saudi owners ahead of a Premier League clash1. The group gathered outside St James’ Park to voice their concerns over human rights in Saudi Arabia. The group has vowed to continue to keep talking about sportswashing – the use of sport to deflect attention from controversial issues – while the owners remain in place.
In addition, groups of Newcastle United and Manchester United fans have joined forces to call for a ban on the sale of clubs to states that could use their ownership for sportswashing human rights abuses. They issued a joint statement in the buildup to a game at St James’ Park