MP slams Newcastle fan joy at Saudi buyout as ’sickness'

British MP calls Newcastle United celebrations of Saudi buyout 'a sickness'
2 min read
21 October, 2021
John Nicolson, the Scottish National Party MP who made the remark, is a member of the Commons' Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee.
John Nicolson is a Scottish National Party parliamentarian [Getty]

A UK lawmaker has described the mass euphoria among Newcastle United supporters about a buy-out of the football club by Saudi investors as a "sickness at the heart of football".

Scottish National Party MP John Nicolson slammed the sale of the Premier League side to Saudi Public Investment Fund due to Riyadh's human rights record, including the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi by state officials.

The buy-out has been met with mass celebrations in the North East. Some Newcastle fans have donned dishdashas and headscarves at St James' Park to celebrate the new owners - an act broadly viewed as racist.

"I'm trying to imagine what it must be like to be Jamal Khashoggi's widow, when her husband has been chopped up and murdered… and she sees numpties dancing around in cod-Arabic dresses outside Newcastle United," the Ochil and South Perthshire lawmaker said.

"That must be heart-rending," he told a hearing.

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The MP said about the celebrations: "That's a kind of sickness at the heart of football, isn’t it?"

Amnesty International and other rights groups have slammed the move with Riyadh accused of a litany of violations against activists and clerics.

Sections of the Newcastle crowd have worn "Arab" clothing and waved Saudi flags.

The club has said it was "asking supporters to refrain from wearing traditional Arabic clothing or Middle East-inspired head coverings at matches if they would not ordinarily wear such attire".

Newcastle insisted the fancy dress was "positive and welcoming in its intent" and did not upset any of the team's new proprietors.

"However, there remains the possibility that dressing this way is culturally inappropriate and risks causing offence to others."