One year on from the Newcastle United takeover, local MP Chi Onwurah has reflected on the impact of the club’s new owners on the city.
The MP for Newcastle-upon-Tyne Central has been a long-term fan and advocate of The Magpies, recently mentioning the club in parliament during a moving tribute to the late Queen Elizabeth II.
In a statement shared with NewcastleWorld, Ms Onwurah spoke of how the change in the atmosphere at St. James’ Park since last October has spilled into the streets of the region and called on fans to continue challenging human rights failures in Saudi Arabia.
The MP said: “It is a year since Newcastle United fans celebrated the end of the Ashley era, a moment many of my constituents had longed for. Since then the club’s performance on the pitch has improved and the atmosphere at St James Park, and indeed on the streets of our city, is much more positive - when the club does well the city does well.
“I am also pleased to see that the Club is engaging more constructively with fans, and that the Club have been more active in their support for a diverse and inclusive United fanbase. This is all to be welcomed.
“Fans are at the heart of the beautiful game and It has been a great honour to be able to champion Newcastle United fans in Parliament and beyond.
“At the same time the reality is that Saudi Arabia, whose sovereign wealth fund is the effective owner of Newcastle United, continues to have an atrocious human rights record—in some respects, such as the treatment of women, among the worst in the world. This does not reflect the values of our city. In May of this year I raised in Parliament the horrific massacre of 81 people in Saudi Arabia. Saudi ownership of Newcastle United should lead to greater focus on the violence and repression of the Saudi government, not sportswash it.
“Newcastle United is a community institution. The fans are the life of the football club and the team is the heart of our community. But throughout our country the fans do not get a say in who owns their clubs despite being the true source of the club’s value. That is determined by the Premier League within a framework set by Government.
“To hold Newcastle United fans accountable for Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses, as some have sought to do, is to misdirect legitimate anger. Instead, we need to campaign for more transparency and accountability in football, and a bigger say for fans and I pledge to keep up that fight as long as I have the privilege to serve the people of Newcastle. I look forward to working with Amanda Staveley and Mehrdad Ghodoussi in the interests of my constituents and the wider football family.”