A Newcastle MP has demanded the swift appointment of an independent regulator for the Premier League in a passionate speech centred around Newcastle United in parliament.
MP for Newcastle-upon-Tyne Central Chi Onwurah has close ties with the football club and regularly escalates issues shared by fans. Earlier this year the MP penned a letter demanding the withdrawal of public funds offered to private Strawberry Place investors and recently published a reply from train company LNER regarding Carabao Cup final transport.
Speaking in the House of Commons yesterday, Ms Onwurah turned her attention to the need for an independent regulator to oversee the actions of top-flight football in the country.
The MP has readily shared hesitancy regarding the current Saudi Arabian ownership of Newcastle United and the question put to the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Sport, Tourism, Heritage and Civil Society MP Stuart Andrew comes over a potential Manchester United takeover.
Anger at ‘downright dodgy’ Premier League ownership
Ms Onwurah said: “We are on our way to Wembley and I am sure the Minister will join me in wishing every success to Newcastle United in the League Cup final on Sunday.
“He must know that that success will not erase the years of anger and frustration at unsuitable, unaccountable and sometimes downright dodgy ownership within a Premier League which is out of touch and doesn’t seem to care about fans.
“This government is just messing with the heart and soul of fans. Will he commit now that the White Paper will institute an independent regulator, that fans will have real power in the beautiful game and that this will be in place for the start of the next season?”
Mr Andrew replied confirming that he had worked to ensure that “the voices of fans are heard” in the upcoming White Paper, but was unable to confirm any decision about an independent regulator.
The MP said: “Mr Deputy Speaker, I’m looking forward to attending that match at the weekend and already have a list as long as my arm of people who want to join me at that match.
“She is right, I’ve had advocates like my humble friend the Member for Hyndburn talking about Accrington Stanley as a club and all the work that they do and how important the fans are. She is right to raise that and I can assure her that throughout all of this, I have tried my best to make sure the voices of fans are heard in the published White Paper this week.”
Manchester United takeover latest
The discussion comes as news of a potential Manchester United takeover dominates the sports agenda.
It was confirmed on Friday that a bid for ownership of the club had come in from Qatar’s Sheikh Jassim Bin Hamad Al Thani and Sir Jim Ratcliffe‘s INEOS group. Meanwhile, interest from US hedge fund Elliott Management was also unveiled on Saturday.
Ms Onwurah has spoken regularly about her concerns over the involvement of the Saudi Public Investment Fund at Newcastle United, separating her happiness for the club’s success from the human rights atrocities in the Middle Eastern country.
‘To hold fans accountable is to misdirect legitimate anger’
Speaking to NewcastleWorld on the anniversary of the takeover in October, the MP said: “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 a 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.”