New ownership is often celebrated in football.
A wealthy benefactor – and they do always have to be wealthy – comes along and prepares to stick his or her hand in his or her pocket and splash the cash. Fans dream of new signings, of multi-million-pound spending sprees, of rising up the league table; everything else sort of falls by the wayside.
This has happened at Newcastle United.
Of course, they have been here before. There have been multiple false dawns under the tumultuous reign of Mike Ashley but, finally, at long last, it appears as though he will finally be out of their club.
This is not an article to rag on Ashley; plenty have done that and Newcastle fans probably don’t want to read about the catalogue of failures that have plagued his reign. As a neutral, though, one has to say that the appointment of Joe Kinnear as a Director of Football stands alone; at his first press conference, he called a journalist a rude word and, quite amazingly, it only got worse from there.
Yet questions need to be asked.
The Saudi Private Wealth Fund has an enormous amount of financial clout. They have an immense amount of money and one can perhaps understand, at face level, why fans are so excited. They want their club to spend and they want to see the club back where they are seen to belong – among the top six, challenging for the league title, returning to the Champions League for the first time since the management of the late, great Sir Bobby Robson.
There is a desire for them to splash the cash and bring in star signings – a summer spend of over £150m would go a long way to convincing the fans that a new era is dawning, that a blood-stained sun is rising.
That blood needs noting, too. The Saudi regime, to quote The Independent, executed 185 people last year. That works out as an execution almost every two days. One day saw 37 people killed. The numbers include young men who were children when they were found guilty.
Per USA Today, being gay in Saudi Arabia is a capital offence that can lead to death, while it is also punishable by prison time or by flogging.
There is, of course, likely to be false equivalency bandied around here. What about Manchester City? What about Sheffield United? Both are victims of the Saudi sportwashing regime that has also claimed WWE and multiple heavyweight boxing promoters.
Newcastle are just the latest example and climbing into bed with the Saudis is akin to seduction by siren song.
Walter Copland Perry, the scholar, once wrote that the song of a siren “though irresistibly sweet, was no less sad than sweet, and lapped both body and soul in a fatal lethargy, the forerunner of death and corruption.”
That is applicable to Newcastle, only that the death and corruption has been a predecessor, and that everyone in St James’ Park is aware of it.
Mike Ashley was and is a genuinely awful owner, perhaps the very worst in the Premier League, but sometimes, perhaps it is better the devil you know.
Ashley, after all, has treated fans like customers, built an empire on the ‘stock it high, sell it low’ mantra, and turned St James’ Park, that famous old ground, into an advertising board.
The Saudis, though, have literal blood on their hands. This is no false equivalency, purely the facts.
Newcastle fans would do well to remember that.