Palace fans’ group accuses the Premier League of choosing ‘money over morals’ on £300m Newcastle takeover deal and doing ‘business with one of the world’s most bloody and repressive regimes’
Croydon’s police invited scorn and ridicule on Saturday, when they announced on social media that they had “received a report of an offensive banner displayed by Crystal Palace fans”.
The Met Police’s Croydon Twitter account stated that officers were “assessing the information and carrying out enquiries. Any allegations of racist abuse will be taken very seriously”.
Palace were playing Newcastle at Selhurst Park in the Premier League on Saturday, the first away fixture since the takeover of the north-east club by a consortium – Public Investment Fund (PIF) – that is controlled by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The banner, organised by the Holmesdale Fanatics group, appears to be a straightforward and accurate critique of the Saudis’ appalling human rights record, and the Premier League’s money-led “fit and proper person” test for club ownership.
The response the police received was universally hostile, and also included complaints from some Palace fans about the use of Saudi flags by Newcastle fans in the away end.
“It takes 30sec to look at the banner,” wrote one fan. “Go back to protecting our streets and stop wasting time on nonsense.”
Another replied, “That is legitimate public protest against a despotic government and a group of business owners. There is no racist abuse. It is ludicrous yoou are taking this particular complaint seriously.”
“The banner is the type of cutting political satire that the UK can rightly be proud of,” said Nicholas McGeehan, director of human rights consultancy FairSquare.
“The Crystal Palace fans who made it deserve nothing but credit. We should not be repressing our hard-fought rights and freedoms to spare the feelings of the Saudi state or the Newcastle fans who desperately want to believe that criticism of the Saudis’ human rights abuses is racist.”
Holmesdale Fanatics said, “The Saudi-led takeover of Newcastle has rightly received widespread condemnation and anger. It is clear the PIF is a front for the tyrannical ruling Saudi regime and by endorsing this, the Premier League has made a mockery of its own ‘Owners and Directors’ test.
“The Premier League has chosen money over morals and in green-lighting this deal, has done business with one of the world’s most bloody and repressive regimes.
“A country controlled by fear where women are second-class citizens, same-sex partnerships banned, journalists silenced, imprisoned or killed and ‘dissidents’ brutally persecuted now has a foothold in our national game.
“To give the ‘thumbs up’ to this deal at a time when the Premier League is promoting the women’s game and inclusive initiatives such as rainbow armbands shows the total hypocrisy at play and demonstrates the league’s soulless agenda where profits trump all.
“Newcastle, as a team, is now being used to sportswash the blood from the hands of a corrupt governance and deluded supporters should consider that reality when singing of ‘getting their club back’.”
The Fanatics’ statement was issued ahead of the match, and before the police announced their “investigation”, so their final paragraph might also serve as a lesson to others about protecting the freedom to protest.
“We are lucky to live in a country where we can display a banner such as this without repercussion,” the Fanatics said. “Many in Saudi Arabia wish they were afforded those.”
Meanwhile, the anti-racism campaigners at Kick It Out have been trying to encourage Newcastle fans not to wear tea towels on their heads as a way of celebrating their new owners. Seriously.
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