Support and sportswashing accusations as Newcastle United confirm Northern Pride sponsorship

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Newcastle United has said it looks forward to celebrated ‘equality, diversity and inclusion’ at the popular Northern Pride event this month.

Newcastle United has confirmed it will once again sponsor the Northern Pride festival in the city this month, weeks after the club received criticism for a lack of engagement with Pride Month.

The club failed to reference the movement online during the month of June, despite having done so in years previous and with many other Premier League clubs sharing awareness for the campaign. Some fans online labelled that as 'absolutely awful' and 'genuinely upsetting'.

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Newcastle United has now confirmed its involvement in the Northern Pride Festival celebrations that take place on the Town Moor between July 22 and 23. The club was a headline sponsor of last year's event and has released a statement sharing its excitement to 'support equality, diversity and inclusion' again this year.

Newcastle United CEO Darren Eales said: "We are proud to once again support the Northern Pride festival, which brings our communities together to celebrate inclusivity.

"We look forward to seeing our United As One brand at the Main Stage and we hope everyone attending the festival has an incredible time.”

Some fans online have celebrated the news and thanked the club for supporting the Pride event, labelling the news a 'big win', 'fantastic news' and 'a big statement'. One added: "Great to see, I was worried when there was no acknowledgement of Pride month in June, so this is very welcome news."

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Newcastle United with support Northern Pride once again this year (Image: Getty Images)Newcastle United with support Northern Pride once again this year (Image: Getty Images)
Newcastle United with support Northern Pride once again this year (Image: Getty Images) | Getty Images

Other football fans questioned the intention behind the move from the club with accusations of sportswashing appearing once again given the Saudi Arabian ownership of Newcastle United.

One social media user wrote: "Meanwhile the owners of the same club put people to death based solely on their sexuality. It’s beyond a farcical level of hypocrisy."

Newcastle United is 80% owned by the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund, which took over the club from controversial former owner Mike Ashley in 2021.

In Saudi Arabia, same-sex sexual activity is prohibited under Sharia law and can be punishable by death. Transgender people can also be prosecuted for failing to follow strict Saudi dress codes imposed by the law.

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Human Dignity Trust reports 'substantial evidence' of the law being enforced in recent years with LGBTQ+ people frequently arrested, with some executed for their sexuality.

There have also been 'consistent reports of discrimination and violence being committed against LGBTQ+ people in recent years, including murder, assault, harassment, and the denial of basic rights and services'.

Last year, Newcastle United LGBTQ+ supporter group United with Pride were present at the Northern Pride festival and represented the club at the event.

The group have been acknowledged and welcomed by club co-owners Amanda Staveley and Mehrdad Ghodoussi, as well as receiving the rainbow match-worn Rainbow Laces armband from club captain Kieran Trippier.

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Last year, the group marched in the Pride parade alongside the Newcastle United Foundation, Wor Flags and Newcastle Panthers. Before the event, United with Pride spokesperson Ian Pearson-Brown admitted that "we've got a lot of people to convince that football is a welcoming place for LGBTQ+ people".

NUFC fans march at the paradeNUFC fans march at the parade
NUFC fans march at the parade | -

Ian said: "The city of Newcastle has been trying to host UK Pride for the last three years and Covid has delayed this. We started planning for this event with staff back in 2019. It long predated the takeover.

"Regardless who owns the club, we were always going to be at Northern Pride and have representation from the club, the Foundation, ourselves at United with Pride, Northumberland FA and others. I would say it's business as usual.

"The jewel in the crown of the city is Newcastle United and, in particular, the fans. That's what we're known for. We want to have some of that culture on the march, so we encourage anybody who is an NUFC fan to come down, grab a flag and walk with us down Northumberland Street to march and sing some of the famous Newcastle United chants as we go to show that we as a city have an inclusive culture and that St. James' Park is a safe space for people who are LGBTQ+."

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