Saudis welcome Newcastle fans with hope and conflicted morality

Chris Greenslade was wearing a mock Arab headdress while enjoying a Newcastle Brown Ale. He proudly celebrated his club's new status of one of the most wealthy in world sports.

Saudis welcome Newcastle fans with hope and conflicted morality

The 41-year-old Newcastle fan declared, "We are Saudis." "We can afford everything."

Fans celebrated and gloated only prior to Sunday's match against Tottenham at Saint James' Park. This was before the reality set in.

Callum Wilson gave Newcastle the lead after just 107 seconds. The hosts lost 3-2 to remain in the relegation zone. As the crowd demanded, there will be a lot of spending on players and a new manager.

Newcastle supporters must accept that their club, long underachieving, is now owned by the state. To accept the wealth of the Saudi sovereign wealth funds to replace a long-despised owner is an unwelcome attachment to the murkier side a kingdom.

Greenslade said, "You're going get stuff like that along there," pointing out a vehicle with the name "Jamal Khashoggi", alongside an image showing the journalist who was murdered at the Saudi consulate Istanbul in 2018. A photo of Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince, was also included in the grisly plot.

Greenslade asked, "Is it evidence?" "Is it nailed to?"

U.S. intelligence agencies stated that they believe the murder of the U.S.-based Saudi journalist was ordered by the crown prince, who now controls 80% of Newcastle's Public Investment Fund. The Saudi assassination team is believed to have used planes belonging to a PIF company. Prince Mohammed has denied wrongdoing.

Adel Al-Shammari was bemused as the van circled around St. James Park once more. He is a Saudi student at Newcastle's university.

He said, "It's fake information." "Believe it."

Al-Shammari was apprehensive when Khashoggi's fate, his body, and the findings from investigators were raised.

"I know the story. He said, "It's not as you think." It's a completely different story. It's difficult to explain."

This new corner of northeast England is the latest example of the Saudi state’s efforts to improve its image through investments in sports.

Al-Shammari stated, "Just go to Saudi Arabia and ask the people there." "You'll find the truth."

It is currently regular Saudis living in England talking, but not Yasir Al Rumayyan, the non-executive chairman. He uses the title His Excellency, and serves as governor of the PIF board, which is dominated by Saudi ministers.

Abdulrahman Alshmasi travelled to Newcastle from Birmingham, a central English city. He is currently studying to observe the club that he supported when the protracted buyout was completed just two weeks ago.

He said, "It's now the richest club worldwide." "I hope they'll be one of the top European teams."

After 14 years of low investment, local fans are hopeful that they will be able to win a trophy.

Matty Ward, fed up with lack of money spent on the team, gave up his season ticket and returned to the club on Sunday after three decades.

Ward, 18, said that it was "just brilliant", and that he was really happy. Ward was wearing a replica of the red-and white checkered headdress, which is reminiscent of Saudis. "To have a little hope in your club, that is what football is all about.... To be able to believe again in your club."

Ward and his supporters may be careful not to get too involved in the Saudi scandals highlighted by Amnesty International activists who attempted to block the deal.

"Human rights are obviously a concern. Ward stated that if anything is proved, then I expect it will be handled properly and thoroughly." "But so long as there's clear separation between the club and that, I don’t see the problem."

Premier League approved the sale of Newcastle United Football Club, which was stalled last season, stating that it had received "legally binding guarantees that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would not control the club." However, PIF's corporate ownership structure counters that statement, though the Premier League will not discuss the reasons for the requirements.

Amanda Staveley brokered the deal, and now holds 10% of the investment vehicle. She was present at Sunday's game along with Al-Rumayyan who was introduced to the crowd.

The Premier League was pursuing legal remedies to stop a TV piracy operation linked with Saudi Arabia, which was bootlegging footage from Qatari owned beIN Sports. This was a complicating factor in allowing the buyout. After the thawing in the larger Gulf diplomatic dispute, beIN was informed that it was not banned in Saudi Arabia. This removed an obstacle to the transfer of ownership.

It is not clear how long it will take before footage of Newcastle celebrating a trophy is shown around the globe. The January transfer window is the best time to start spending on a team that has three points from eight games. A manager named Steve Bruce, who was chanting "sacked in the morning", can't be used.

Greenslade is one of the many fans who stopped attending games a decade back. Now, they believe that things will improve and that tickets are becoming more difficult to find. Greenslade says that just going to the stadium for a matchday is enough for him to get excited about the future, "after 14 years' worth of absolute dross."

As the squad is rebuilt, he is ready for slow rebuilding.

He said, "It can take ten years as long it comes." "What is the purpose of (players)? At the moment, it's all about the money.