I wrote this in May/June and didn’t publish it because everything was up in the air and I thought “best not make more of an arse of yourself than usual” – revisited it today and I reckon it’s worth a read.
I must confess I have spent months thinking about what would actually happen if Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia did buy Newcastle United. I wasn’t daydreaming about some fantasy football shopping list of players rocking up at Gallowgate, as the embers of burning Sports Direct billboards are reflected in the joyous tears of happy Geordies, I was actually trying to work out how this would end up being a bad thing.
Make no mistake Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman buying Newcastle should be a very bad thing. Mike Ashley may be many of the things we have accused him of over the years, from bumbling nincompoop to shoddy tat-merchant, but he isn’t suspected of murder, of executing children, of “disappearing” dissenters. People who criticise Ashley don’t get locked up or threatened or kidnapped and they don’t, like Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, find themselves killed and dismembered. So a bad thing, which, immediately made me think it more likely to happen because that’s what being a Newcastle fan teaches you to expect; the worst from any situation that you then have to process (usually by deploying rank hypocrisy) into being a good thing to preserve your own mental health. An easy couple of examples: we get knocked out of a cup – so we can concentrate on the League or we’ve been relegated – which means we get to find out what a Burton Albion is. Or like when money lending parasites Wonga made our players advertise their poverty trap services on the front of our football shirts. A good thing I then decided: take money from the bastards, shine a light on them and what they do – and it worked. Nobody seemed to care much when Wonga sponsored Blackpool or Hearts but as soon as they got into bed with Newcastle the brand became so toxic that they collapsed into administration in 2018. Job done. Well done us.
Why would Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman want to get involved with Newcastle United? Well there was a name for it now and the media have called it “Sportswashing”. Manchester City and Paris St Germain aren’t football clubs they are PR departments for murderous dictatorships. But nobody was saying “Sportswashing” when Manchester City got bought despite their new owners being under investigation for slavery, child trafficking and murder at the time of any non-existent “fit and proper persons test.” It was a very interesting story involving Pakistani camel child-jockeys, US horse racing and the FBI but the story has been “Sportswashed”, presumably the right people have been silenced and Pep Guardiola, poster boy for democracy, as he has pretended to be, is fine with it. That’s what would be in it for Crown Price Mohammad bin Salman, you smile throw money around and all the awkward questions go away.
Except Sportswashing won’t work at Newcastle and anyone thinking that it would has massively misunderstood Newcastle United’s relationship with the national press in this country. Whatever is the opposite of Sportswashing is what will happen and what has already been happening. So, I’ve decided I’m massively in favour of Crown Price Mohammad bin Salman taking over at Newcastle United because, like with the Wonga experiment, criticism won’t be dampened down, it will be ramped up, which is great. Amnesty International (who I support unreservedly) want a light shined on Saudi Arabia? Will this one the size of the Bat-signal over Gotham do? It’s got a Newcastle United badge on it?
The real issue comes when anybody tries to tell us we can’t take the Saudis blood-soaked money. Because we just point straight at our own government and say “Well they do”. The Saudi Arabians give our government and the arms industry they work for billions of pounds for expensive missiles that the Saudis then fire straight at children in the Yemen, it’s been going on for ages and apparently, as a country, we’re alright with it. Now it’s going to be a hot topic which is a good thing.
Have I got a problem with The Saudi state having a truly terrible record of homophobia and misogyny? Of course I have but we have got a club captain who has no problem wearing a rainbow armband and a crowd that has had rainbow flags in support of our gay community within the last year. Do you think we’re going to dial that down or do you think (assuming we are ever allowed in the ground again) we are going to turn the entire ground into a massive Pride party that the whole of Saudi Arabia will have beamed into their living rooms? We also have some of the most fabulously gobby womenfolk in the world and you can see them, unbidden, offering their opinions with great ferocity every time the camera cuts to the crowd. does anybody think that is about to change? Welcome to Newcastle Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, your life’s about to get a bit mental.