Wednesday, 27 October, 2021
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Newcastle fans dream big after Saudi-led takeover

Newcastle fans dream big after Saudi-led takeover

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Newcastle fans are dreaming of Premier League glory after a Saudi-led takeover propelled the club into the ranks of the super-rich but Amnesty International branded the deal a "bitter blow for human rights defenders".

Thousands of jubilant supporters swarmed to St James' Park after the drawn-out £305 million ($415 million) deal was agreed on Thursday, chanting "we've got our club back".

On Friday, workers were sweeping up bottles and other debris outside the city centre stadium following the impromptu party. The takeover was rubber-stamped by the Premier League after it received legally binding assurances that Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, which has an 80 percent stake in the consortium, was not acting on behalf of the kingdom's government.

That is despite the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, being listed as the chairman of the PIF. Retired warehouseman Justin Cowan, speaking to AFP outside St James' Park on Friday, admitted to AFP that there were concerns among fans over the new ownership but said fans were buoyant.

"It's great for the city," he said. "It's absolutely brilliant. They have got human rights issues. Everyone knows that, but we need this."

Newcastle, languishing second from bottom of the Premier League, are one of the best-supported clubs in the English top flight but they have not won a major trophy since 1969.

The new owners will hope Newcastle can follow the template established by Manchester City, who have become serial trophy winners since a 2008 takeover by Sheikh Mansour, a member of the Abu Dhabi royal family.

But the takeover deal was greeted with dismay by Amnesty, who described it as "an extremely bitter blow for human rights defenders".

Saudi Arabia faced international condemnation following the brutal murder of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom's Istanbul consulate three years ago.

Hatice Cengiz, the fiancee of Khashoggi, said the Saudi-backed takeover was "heartbreaking".