Newcastle United players land in Saudi Arabia for 'training camp'
Newcastle United have landed in Saudi Arabia for a week-long "warm weather training camp" following the controversial takeover of the club by a consortium including the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) last year.
The Magpies travelled to Jeddah, on the country's western Red Sea coast, and will return to the UK on 29 January, according to a statement from the club Sunday.
The English team, who are currently languishing near the bottom of the Premier League, will "play a behind-closed-doors" match against Saudi pro League leaders Al-Ittihad on Friday.
Manager Eddie Howe said the camp was about "training" and bringing the players together "in a different environment".
It is unclear whether the team will meet the PIF chair, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
This is the team's first visit to the kingdom following the 2021 takeover in which the Saudi PIF alongside PCP Capital Partners and RB Sports & Media bought the football team from British retail billionaire Mike Ashley.
While fans celebrated the news, welcoming the end of Ashley’s fraught ownership and the inflood of cash to purchase top players, human rights groups raised concerns over the deal.
Amnesty labelled the takeover as "sportwashing", claiming it was an attempt to distract from Saudi Arabia’s poor human rights record and allegations of extrajudicial killings, such as the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.