09:04, 19 APR 2020
So Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman is closing in on Newcastle United.
And the only way this could get worse was if Donald Trump announced tomorrow that he was buying Aston Villa, and the sons of Colonel Gaddafi and Pol Pot said they were splashing out on Derby County and Nottingham Forest respectively.
Thirty or 40 years ago, football clubs used to be owned by the bloke who lived locally and was a bit of a rascal, a bit of a wrong ’un, but his heart was in the right place.
He’d made a few quid owning the local steel mill or coal mine, a store or car dealership, and he wanted to buy the club he’d supported all his life to cement his position as the big-shot in the city.
You didn’t agree with all his decisions or even the majority of them, and always wanted him to spend more money.
Newcastle’s proposed new owners won’t offer bottomless pit of cash like Man City
St James’ Sheikh-up long overdue… but ‘celebrating’ Toon fans deserve better
But there were seldom any serious moral or ethical question marks around his ownership of his club.
These days, however, that is no longer the case, with some of our clubs owned by states with questionable human rights records. And what is hugely troubling is that barely anyone bats an eyelid about it.
There is a moral vacuum around the Premier League now and football in this country in general, and as fans that does not reflect well on us.
Many supporters just don’t care where the money comes from as long as there’s enough of it to buy a shiny new £60million striker – and that’s desperately worrying.
I’m not only bagging Newcastle fans here, because they are just the latest in a long line of clubs to take the money without looking to see where it’s from.
But they are in the spotlight, with Mike Ashley close to selling the Toon to a consortium led by financier Amanda Staveley that will see Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, of which Bin Salman is the chairman, take an 80 per cent controlling stake.
What dismays me is how many of them are just happy to wave Bin Salman in without asking many, if any, questions.
This, after all, is a bloke who was globally reviled less than two years ago after the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi – a crime the Crown Prince still hasn’t given any satisfactory answers on.
But when a respected colleague stuck his head above the parapet on Twitter last week and told Newcastle fans that, just like their Manchester City counterparts, they can expect some tough questions in the years to come, no Toon supporters seemed remotely bothered.